KATHMANDU, Sept 22: The decision to add new tunnels and expand already proposed tunnels was taken as per the advice of independent consultants, a university professor and a government engineer, the Nepal Army has said.
Independent consultants Sanjiv Shah, Pawan Shrestha, Gyanendra Lal Shrestha and Ramhari Sharma and engineer (under-secretary) at the Ministry of Physical and Transport Dhurba Kumar Shrestha advised adding more tunnels, according to the army. Indra Acharya, a geologist at the Pulchwok-based Institute of Engineering, was also consulted before reaching the decision. Taxpayers will now have to fork out Rs 4.29 billion more for the additional tunnel work. Government officials concerned say they are under constant pressure from the army to go along with its proposal.
As per the Asian Development Bank feasibility study, the tunnel span was to be only 1.35 km (from Mahadevtar to Bhedre) . But according to the army's proposal, this will expand to 3.3 km, with two new tunnels -- Bhedre-Jitpur (1.37 km) and Lendanda tunnel (1.4 km).
The army has not consulted any senior officials of the government nor important entities such as the Department of Roads or the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport, according to government engineers.
Meanwhile, addressing a press meet on Thursday, the army's Major General Yogendra Bahadur Khand said the decision to add the tunnels will save travel time and also reduce the risk from earthquakes as fewer high bridges will be required.
The army has also stated that Korean company Susung Engineering Co. Ltd. will work the additional tunnels into the army's own DPR. The army will dictate matters to the consultant instead of the latter doing its work independently.
The army organized a visit to the project site on Wednesday for Minister for Defense Ishwor Pokhrel and Minster for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Raghuvir Mahaseth .
1,200 army personnel in construction work
Meanwhile, as many as 1,200 army personnel are engaged in construction work on the Kathmandu-Tarai Expressway project, the army said. The personnel range from rank and file to officer-level, informed Gen. Khand. “Each person gets Rs 150 per day in additional remuneration for non-risk work and Rs 550 if the work involves risk,” he informed.
The army is now earth-cutting 6.01 million cubic meters of soil and refiling 890,000 cubic meters. It has also cut down over 19,619 trees and handed over the timber in prescribed log sizes to the Department of Forests and forest consumer committees . Likewise, it has already built eight camps along the way while two more are under construction.