KATHMANDU, Dec 20: The excitement brought about by the Kathmandu Valley road expansion drive nearly five years ago has now waned as the ambitious project falls victim to snail-pace progress, a common fate of almost all governmental projects.
Four-and-a-half years on, only 26 percent of the campaign's set target has been achieved, thanks to the government's slackness and the concerned authorities' inability to overcome the ever-present bureaucratic hassles. Around six million people estimated to be currently residing in the three districts of the Valley are suffering as a result.
The Kathmandu Valley Development Authority (KVDA), the body carrying out the road expansion work, had set a target to widen 1,287 kilometers of the valley's roads – 1050 km in Kathmandu, 137 km in Patan, and another 100 km in Bhaktapur district. So far, they have only managed to achieve widening of 334.5 km roads across the Valley – 240 km in Kathmandu, 57.5 km in Patan and 37 km in Bhaktapur, according to the development commissioners of the respective districts.
Admitting the delay in Kathmandu's road expansion, Ram Prasad Shrestha, Kathmandu District Commissioner of KVRDA, said, “It is not viable to speed-up demolition work if other government bodies, including the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) and the Department of Roads (DoR), don't complete their share of work. We cannot just keep demolishing structures; construction work also has to go hand-in-hand.”
He also admitted snags in KVDA's road clearance work citing lack of cooperation from landowners and delay in compensation payment among other things. “Sometimes the locals also come to us and request us to give them more time for clearance, contributing to the delay.”
Construction of road stretches, such as Tripureshwar-Kalanki-Nagdhunga, Chabahil-Jorpati-Sankhu, Chapagaun-Satdobato and Nakkhu-Bhaisepati, among others are still ongoing, while the road sections like Lainchaur-Budhanilkantha, Bhadrakali-Maitighar, Tinkune–Maitighar, and Old Baneshwar-Gaushala, among others have already been completed.
“There progress in the ongoing road constructions is sluggish. The progress is very slow,” said Deepak KC, Project Chief of Kathmandu Valley Road Expansion Project (KVREP), adding, “Our hands are tied as we wait for KVDA to clear obstructions in various road sections.”
After Baburam Bhattarai became prime minister in August 2011, he formed the KVDA in April, 2012, as per the Kathmandu Valley Development Authority Act 1988. Established with primary mandate to 'prepare and implement an integrated physical development plans for the Kathmandu Valley', KVDA gave priority to Bhattarai's road expansion drive.
Crippled by traffic snarls on a daily basis due to narrow roads, the valley denizens were delighted to see the initial success of the ambitious campaign. KVDA started demolishing illegally-built structures and clearing encroached lands, all of which paved way for the widening of the valley roads.
The dusts invited by such demolitions exposed the general public to severe health hazards. Although there were minimum dusts during monsoon seasons, the muddy roads became nightmares for pedestrians and motorists, almost impossible to navigate. The initial admiration of the general public soon turned into dismay. The public criticized the government for undertaking the tasks without much preparation.
Lack of coordination between KVDA and government bodies, including Kathmandu Metropolitan City, Department of Roads, and KVREP that are responsible for reconstruction of the roads, has affected the road expansion campaign. Still at present, these bodies keep blaming each other for the delay.