Workers are seen working on the widening of the North-South Kaligandaki Corridor road (above) and a section of the road is seen in these recent pictures. Photo: Shivalal Subedi/Republica
Gulmi, April 22: Implementation of the North-South Kaligandaki Corridor project, a national pride project, has gained momentum during the last one year since the Nepal Army took the lead.
The army has been widening the narrow track, which was opened by itself, to make it 10 meters wide. According to Major Reshmi Raj Bhattarai, chief of Kaligandaki Corridor Construction Work Force, the army has already widened 21 kilometres of the road that falls in Gulmi by 10 meters during the last one year. In Baglung, five kilometres of the road section has been widened to the set standard.
“As per the agreement, we were supposed to widen 38 kilometers of the road in Baglung and Gulmi district this fiscal year. Considering the achievements so far, it seems that the work would be completed before the deadline,” said Bhattarai.
The project initiated around a decade ago had failed to gain momentum in the beginning. After it turned very tough to open track, the responsibility was handed over to the army. As soon as it was handed over the responsibility, it opened the road track rapidly by blasting rocks at difficult places.
“It was challenging to open the initial track. But we used all our resources and opened it,” said Bhattarai, adding that widening of the road was another phase of work.
To widen and even out the road surface, the army has continued blasting even more rocks and cliffs. To ensure workplace safety and the safety of the passersby, the army has been blocking the road for specific hours to continue work on the project.
“In certain areas, it was hazardous to widen the road. It required additional precautions to ensure safety, so we had to block the road on several occasions to blast extremely hard rocks,” Bhattarai said.
During the last year, the government has released Rs 30 million for repairing and widening the track. If the budget is released on time, we don’t foresee any obstructions that would delay the deadline, Bhattarai assured.
“Continuation of the pace of the work also depends on the timely release of the required budget. If the budget continues to be released on time, we expect the work to continue smoothly. As such, we will be able to complete the project on time or even before time,” he said.
He stated that 80 kilometers of the road section falling in Baglung and Gulmi districts would be widened to 10 meters within two years. Since it is one of the national pride projects speedy repairing and widening of the road is natural, he noted.
While the total length of this North-South Kaligandaki Corridor highway is 435 kilometers, its 42 kilometers falls in Gulmi district, and 38 kilometers fall in Baglung district. Vehicles regularly ply through it since the track opened two years ago. Majority section of the road is eight meters wide.
Even though the government planned to improve the road, locals had pressed for widening and repairing of the road following accidents and difficulty for vehicles to ply. Though the road was always a major project of the government, it had drawn additional priority after the economic blockade imposed by India in 2015.
On April 26 last year, Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali had inaugurated the 80 kilometers road widening project -- from Ridi of Gulmi to Maldhunga of Baglung. Gyawali has stated that the project will not suffer any financial crunch. He has also maintained that the government will not let any other obstacle come on the way either.
“The corridor is our pride, not just of the Province 4 and Province 5 but of the whole nation. We have to take care of it,” he said. “I was for this corridor even when I was not minister, and I will do my best to expedite its implementation,” he adds.
Gyawali further stated that the corridor is of economic, cultural and religious significance. “It connects Muktinath Dham to Lumbini. This is remarkable.”
The Army has already constructed 18 small bridges on the corridor. Similarly, four big-budget concrete bridges have also been built.
“We have been erecting concrete walls, culverts, causeway, among others along the road,” Major Bhattarai said. “Local politicians, people, all have been quite helpful,” he added.
The corridor connects Sunauli to Korola and is expected to give direct benefit to 200 villages along the way. Around one million people are likely to benefit from it. According to locals, the road is also expected to discourage migration of people towards tarai. Migrating to Tarai plains from the hills for better opportunities is common in the region as well.