A dilapidated rural road in Rolpa in this recent picture. Photo: Dinesh Subedi/Republica
ROLPA, Nov 16: Road construction has been one of the major development agenda during the past decade in Rolpa, like elsewhere across the country. Increasing people's access to transport by constructing new roads was also one of the most important election agenda of political parties.
The pace of constructing new roads got further boost after the formation of local bodies that came into power with more power. Locals in Rolpa were buoyed with the pace of development in constructing roads that followed. However, the euphoria has gradually subsided and turn into frustration as darker side of haphazardly constructed road is coming to the fore.
According to locals, 'it was better not to have roads, than to have 'death traps'. They are urging authorities concerned to fix haphazardly constructed roads at the earliest. Stating that their daily activities and businesses have come to a halt, they have asked the local, provincial and federal government to look into the issue and address the problem.
"The entire ward is disconnected to the other part of the road. There are roads, but for namesake. We cannot commute through that, buses cannot ply," lamented Man Bahadur Khatri, chairperson of Rolpa Municipality – 10.
"Earlier we used to walk to old trekking routes, now even that is not possible as they have not been maintained. And the road, which was supposed to provide transportation services are not usable," he added.
Khatri informed Republica that they have reached out to the road division office several times and reported the problem. But the office is yet to respond, he said. "Our concerns have fallen on deaf ears. We have shared our concerns with them several times. We pleaded, but they are doing nothing," he added.
Environmental assessment and basic engineering are prerequisite while constructing roads. However, nothing such happened in Rolpa, according to locals. Road were constructed as and when budget was released, they say. Moreover, local representatives themselves leased their dozers and excavators to make bigger profits. As a result most parts of the district ended up having poorly constructed roads.
Requesting anonymity a businessperson of Rolpa stated that the lack of long term vision among politicians and locals have led to the very sorry condition of the roads. Roads were constructed without considering its environmental impact or about the safety standards of the road. The roads now pose serious threats to environment and human settlements.
"Constructing a road means a huge project. You have to think about the environmental impacts seriously. Or else, that can be very disastrous," he said. "But here, they opened track without taking considering such aspects. There are many human settlements that face serious landslide threats," he added.
According to locals, situation turned worse as 'everyone wanted roads to touch their doorsteps'. So, they put pressure on local politicians to extend road to their localities. But poor quality roads have now become a huge source of concern for everyone. For instance, villagers are now carrying loads from one to the other place just in the traditional manner. And the slippery tracks have made it even difficult for them.
"From Dhawang to the local market, people are now carrying loads on their own, as they used to do in the past. There is no transportation facility and we are not hopeful of things getting better in near future," said Khatri.
The rural roads get a little bit better in winter. However, once monsoon arrives, things get worse. Road tracks in the villages have remained closed for a long time now.
"Road tracks, which once brought smiles on people's face, have been out of use for a long time now. It's been several months since any vehicles came here," said Khatri, adding that only a few roads become usable during the winter.
Most of the villages are now disconnected with the district headquarters. People find it very costly basically during emergencies. This has also triggered high inflation in the rural areas.
"If the road division had taken notice of all this and responded it would brought great respite to locals. It does not take too much time for them to repair the roads," asserted Khatri, adding that people have been forced to compromise with their mobility due to the inaction of body concerned.
One of the major roads that has been blocked since the last five months is Libang – Dhabang road. Locals along the area have urged authorities to fix the road without further delay.
Meanwhile, Dhruba Kumar Shrestha, Chief of the road division office, Rolpa blamed contractors. “Roads in Rolpa are in a sorry state because of the contractors, not because of the government,” he said. "Even bureaucrats are fed up with the attitude of the contractors," he added. He admitted that roads are in dilapidated condition in both eastern and western parts of Rolpa.