Connecting People With Road Networks


Roads are the arteries of development. They are part and parcel of infrastructure development, without which a country can hardly achieve progress in any sector. That is why a country should prioritise road construction. A good road network would lead to development of every sector, be it education, health, agriculture, trade, industry or tourism, ensuring the creation of job opportunities and reduction in poverty. 

Nepal is a landlocked country situated between two economic behemoths - China and India. India is the country’s largest trade partner. It is imperative for the country to have a well-developed road network to facilitate trade, commerce and other activities with its neighbouring countries. The country has been stressing the building of road networks across the country for years, but the track record leaves much to be desired. A good road network is crucial to enhancing trade with neighbouring countries. Nepal relies on transport links with India and China. The nearest port is Kolkata. New trade routes need to be developed to facilitate trade with these and other countries. 

Variety of advantages

A good road network offers a variety of advantages for Nepal. Nepal is a predominantly agricultural country. Although the number of people engaged in agriculture and allied activities is dwindling, over 60 per cent of the population is still involved in that occupation. For the development of agriculture, not only agro-technology, machinery and inputs like fertilisers and improved seeds but also markets are necessary. For lack of markets, some farmers are compelled to throw their produce on the streets, which is unfortunate. A good road network helps find a market for agricultural products. This would reduce the import of agricultural products from India and other countries.

Where there is no good network, people suffer. They may be deprived of even basic services like drinking water and sanitation, let alone health, education and other services. In hilly areas, seriously sick people have to be carried by people to headquarters or airlifted to cities or Kathmandu for treatment. Children have to be sent to headquarters, or Kathmandu or other cities for education. This is an irony. 

A good road network also helps in developing trade, commerce and industry. In rural areas, it helps in developing cottage and small industries as it helps the products of such industries to have access to markets. By creating employment opportunities and spurring economic activities, rural poverty can be alleviated to a great extent. Also, it helps in stopping migration to cities and foreign countries for employment to a great extent. 

What is more, the tourism sector can develop where there is a good road network. Nepal has not been able to benefit as much as possible from the tourism sector. The number of foreign tourists visiting the country is one or 1.1 million annually. This trend has been running for years. One of the reasons is lack of transport facilities. Even in Kathmandu, the state of roads is not satisfactory. Some of the roads are literally dilapidated. They are muddy in summer and dusty in winter. It is reported that in Nepal up to 60 per cent of the roads are unusable during the monsoon season. Such roads include most of the rural roads. The sorry condition of roads is an eyesore for not only foreign tourists but also us.  

As per the 2017/18 data, the road network in Nepal spans around 64,500 kilometres, out of which the strategic road network (SRN) constitutes 13,500 kilometers. The SRN includes highways and feeder roads that connect district headquarters. On the other hand, the local road network (LRN) includes district and urban roads. According to the 15th periodic plan, 18 per cent of the total households in Nepal have no access to roads within 30 minutes’ walk. A survey by the Department of Roads shows that 50 per cent of the population residing in hilly areas must walk two hours to reach an SRN road.  This accounts for the sorry state of road networks in the country. 

Although successive governments have been accentuating the expansion of road networks across the country, the country’s geographical structure has posed a daunting challenge to road building. Nepal is a hilly and mountainous country. Road building in hilly and mountainous areas is a herculean task. The hilly region rises up to 4,000 meters, which has posed another obstacle. Road building in such areas is not only difficult but also highly expensive. The difficulty is further compounded by the country lacking sophisticated construction technology, skilled technical manpower and funds. In the Terai belt, rivers frequently change their course, which is a setback in the expansion of roads. 


This is the age of technology. Countries like China are using sophisticated technology to build roads even in difficult terrain. Road building and expansion are going on in Nepal. But the progress is dismal. There are many factors responsible for this ranging from contractors not completing road construction in time to lack of budgets. The responsibility for constructing roads up to a certain meters wide falls on local bodies. And only those local bodies that can get budgets can build roads, with others not in a position to construct or repair roads even if they are urgent. Such an anomaly needs to be eliminated. 

Road construction should be centralised. There should be a high-powered authority that will look after the construction and maintenance of roads, whether large or small. An adequate budget should be allocated for this purpose so that the anomalies seen in road construction, expansion or maintenance works can be eliminated and such works can be carried out where necessary. After all, the priority of the government should be connecting people with road networks for the uplift of their living standards, prosperity and economic growth. 

(Maharjan has been regularly writing on contemporary issues for this daily since 2000.)

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