Karnali Highway: The road that transformed Jumla

Published On: July 27, 2017 08:08 AM NPT By: DB Buda

JUMLA, July 26: Hari Krishna Budha of Tila Rural Municipality of Jumla is experiencing an amazing feeling thing these days. Never in his wildest dream had he thought of Jumla becoming what it is today, he says. What is it that has perplexed the elderly? ‘Development’ - he remarks.

With new road networks extending into far flung remote villages of the district that were once considered the most remote part of the country, things have begun to change here. People like Hari Krishna are left awestruck.

“The rocky mountains were so hard that thinking of constructing roads by cutting them would feel as a wild dream. Life was so miserable. I had never ever thought that this place would change right before my eyes,” said Hari Krishna. “But thing is that you just have to be alive to see miracles happen,” he adds in utter excitement.

Dozens of old to brand new vehicles pass through his village these days. Farmers pack their produces - vegetables, cattle, milk products, herbs, grains and so on and sell them in market.

“In our time, even till some time back, sight of a jeep here would feel like a farfetched dream. Many of our villagers died as they could not be taken to hospital on time. There were no doctors or medicines in village. We were living a life that was mired with a host of problems,” reminisces Hari Krishna.

He does not hesitate to give all the credit to Nepal Army (NA) for the changing face of Jumla. “It is due to the tireless effort of the NA that we have a motor road here. It was certainly not an easy to break those giant rocks and make such a road through it,” he added.

Karnali Highway has changed the face of Jumla. Unlike earlier, there is no lack of skilled human resource for schools and colleges. There is no dearth of health staffs in hospitals and clinics, due to easy transportation, locals say. Markets are expanding day by day. “We are becoming rich,” remarks Hari Krishna joyously.

Hari Krishna’s neighbor Krishna Budha nods in affirmation. He has not forgotten the days when he used to carry sacks of salt and rice on his back to home from the market. It was not hours of walk, but it would take days, sometimes even weeks to complete the journey.

“I would carry half quintal sacks on my back walk through the mountains trail for days to feed my family. We had no choice but to risk our life by making the perilous journey,” he recalled. “And we used to think that the situation would remain the same for the generations to come. We didn’t see a ray of hope because the steep, hard rocky mountain would shatter such hopes,” he added.

Yet another local of Tila village, Purna Bahadur Budha, loves to talk about the ‘days of mules’ and how suddenly mules in Jumla have become a history. He used to transport goods in mules and sell those to villagers. With brand new blacktopped roads in the district, he has also now become a trader.

Purna Bahadur has built a four-room house in Rararahil and operates his business from there. The life he is living now feels like a dream to him. “I had never thought that my business would expand so much. Though my journey with mules has come to an end, my family’s life has taken a new turn,” he laughed.

Nepal Army had finished opening road track till the district headquarters of Jumla on April 12, 2007. This had planted a seed of hope and change in the remote Karnali. However, things begun to become even better when other road networks were added too, and the highway was later blacktopped, making it easier for vehicles to get along through it.

Roadside settlements are now gradually transforming into markets. People’s mobility has increased. Locals have no hassles in selling their productions.

The road network has, however, directly affected the airlines business. Because of better transportation facilities, airlines have lost passengers.

“Earlier our routes were known as death traps. So, when people got ill, we would rush them to hospital in a helicopter. This has changed,” said Purna Bahadur. “We can easily reach Kathmandu or elsewhere now by road,” he added.

Locals are happy that the road track opened by the NA is gradually being upgraded. “I cannot be happier than this,” said Jaumati Budha, 70, of Malikthata village. “I used to think a jeep is some sort of animal. But when I saw one, I was completely amazed. I have realized that it runs on oil and that it does not eat grass or fodder,” she added.  

The Karnali Highway was blacktopped four years ago. Upgrades on certain sections of the road are still underway. The upgrades so far have increased mobility of the vehicles tremendously. “We can reach Kathmandu in a direct bus just in 36 hours now, what else can we ask for?” Purna Bahadur said.

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