August 4, 2016 12:45 AM NPT
The 36 kilometer road from Mugling to Narayanghat has been under construction for over two years now. More than 7,000 vehicles pass through this section every day, directly affecting the lives of thousands of people. After Prithvi Highway, this road serves as a major lifeline to Kathmandu. However, landslides due to heavy rain along the Mugling-Narayanghat stretch have made it worse for travelers who have to wait for hours to reach their destinations. The fear of landslides is constant and people are risking their lives while traveling through that road. While such is the situation, the project contractors responsible to maintain conditions of the road have, as usual, forwarded an easy excuse to hide their non-performance. They argue that they are only able to work 23 hours a day due to heavy traffic and frequent landslides, while this work should already have been completed before the monsoon. A day’s disruption along the road results in shortage and black marketing of essential supplies like petrol and gas in Kathmandu.
It appears the government is willingly ignoring the strategic importance of this road.
The newly elected Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has a unique opportunity to expedite the project and provide a sense of relief to the traders and people who are badly affected by the disruption. A project of that importance, which is spending almost three billion rupees, needs direct supervision and, even intervention if required, from the highest levels of government authority. Our prime ministers take on too many projects during their short stint at Singha Durbar but fail to deliver on them. It should be recalled that outgoing Prime Minister K P Oli had promised a number of things, including expediting road construction across the country, when he took office in October last year. His dismal delivery on these fronts not only made him seem like an underperforming PM but also led people to believe that Oli only promises but does not deliver. We sincerely hope that the new PM does not repeat those mistakes and direct the concerned government authorities to take on vital projects like road construction and maintenance head on. It is understandable that Dahal has limited time to deliver. Thus he should choose projects that could be streamlined and completed during his premiership.
Roads are the tangible symbols of how and whether a country is developed. Sorry state of Mugling-Narayanghat road reflects how Nepal has failed to carry out vital infrastructure development with urgency. This stretch of road can also be taken as a sample of projects that have siphoned off billions of taxpayers’ money with disappointing results. Some of the hydro projects like Chameliya and Trishuli await immediate attention. The costs of these projects are skyrocketing and the intended beneficiaries—the people—are bearing the brunt. We can only project a confident nation ready to welcome foreign investments if both small and big projects are completed on time. While we take this opportunity to congratulate Pushpa Kamal Dahal on becoming country’s Prime Minister for the second time, we also remind him of the urgency to prioritize national projects and do everything in his power to get them going. He might start with Mugling-Narayanghat road.