Multiple delays, multiple deadline extensions, multiple irregularities and negligence are perhaps what characterize our multi-billion rupees development projects—including the national pride ones on which Nepal exclusively relies to achieve its development goals. This laxity and non-action on national pride projects will cost us dearly—both in terms of economy and the benefits people are supposed to derive from their completion. As Republica has found out, only seven out of 21 national pride projects have achieved 50 percent or more progress although their completion deadlines are inching closer. Some projects have already exceeded the completion deadline and extended deadlines of most others are set to expire in two or three years. Melamchi Drinking Water Project is a case in point.
The project which was to be completed last Dashain itself is yet to complete remaining 17 percent of work, which means the residents of Kathmandu won’t get Melamchi water even this Dashain, though the authorities concerned had promised so. The deadline of this project has been extended for four times already. Projects related to management and protection of Chure and turning Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, into an international center of the Buddhist community and peace are yet to complete remaining 20 percent works. Similar fate awaits three north-south highways, including Karnali, Koshi and Kaligandaki corridors, which are lagging far behind their completion deadlines. Even worse, only 9.9 percent work has been completed in Budhigandaki hydropower project (1,200 MW) and only 25 percent work has been accomplished on postal highway while 55 percent of work is yet to be accomplished in mid-hill highway. The government must not continue with business as usual mode on these projects. Ministry of Physical Infrastructure, Energy Ministry, Tourism Ministry and Drinking Water and Forest Ministries, which are overseeing these projects, must rise to the occasion and get the contractors and other authorities responsible for handling the national projects to work on these projects head-on.
It is obvious that negligence by contractors, lack of coordination and non-cooperation among government agencies, among other things, are major hurdles to national projects. But the government has not been able to deal with these issues with resolve. The recent case relates to utter dereliction of duty by Pappu Construction—which is sitting on billions of rupees projects, doing nothing. Despite intense media pressure and reporting, the government seemed to be trying to protect the owner of Pappu because he happens to be the member of a certain political party. When we fail to hold the contractors to account for non-performance, project completion is bound to be delayed. Besides, government’s failure in systematizing distribution and availability of construction materials on time has become a good excuse for contractors to evade works. When it comes to national pride projects there should be no ifs and buts. If we delay vital projects, it will not only impede progress in infrastructure development but also discourage foreign investors to put in money in Nepal. Nepal needs to do everything possible to ensure that all development projects get completed within the set deadline.