Published On: May 5, 2017 07:41 AM NPT By: Rudra Pangeni | @rudrapang
KATHMANDU, May 5: The government has decided to entrust the task of building Kathmandu-Tarai Expressway Project to the Nepal Army (NA).
The cabinet meeting held on Thursday decided to award the fast-track road project to the security agency. The Nepal Army will now form a special mechanism under its coordination to execute the 76-kilometer expressway project within four years, according to Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport (MoPIT), Ramesh Lekhak.
The mechanism will be led by a general of the Nepal Army appointed by the army chief.
The ministry has been asked to prepare a guideline and a detailed work plan to execute the project and table it in the cabinet for final approval within 15 days.
The cabinet meeting has also decided to purchase the project’s detailed project report (DPR) prepared by an Indian company.
“A monitoring team led by the vice-chairman of National Planning Commission (NPC) and comprising of MoPIT secretary, defense secretary and finance secretary will monitor implementation of the project and report it to the government every month,” said Lekhak.
However, it is not clear whether the army will build the expressway on its own or award the contract to private parties.
The cabinet has also asked the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation and Ministry of Land Reforms to help in project implementation by acquiring remaining land and giving the go-ahead to cut down trees on the project’s right of way.
The project cost has not been fixed. However, the government has decided to provide needful budget to the national pride project.
Minister Lekhak tabled the agenda to award the expressway to the Nepal Army in the cabinet meeting on Thursday despite resistance from the officials of his ministry as well as the Department of Roads (DoR).
The officials of DoR have been arguing that the project of this nature is different from the tasks like track opening being handled by the army. They also claim that the army does not have any experience of handling projects of this scale.
Earlier, Minister Lekhak had asked the army whether it can build the project. In its response, the NA said that it was capable of executing the expressway project.
The decision has pushed aside the report submitted by a study panel led by NPC Vice-Chairperson Min Bahadur Shrestha which suggested forming a special vehicle company or a development committee to execute the project.
Minister Lekhak argued that they chose to award the project to a stable entity rather than forming a company which ultimately becomes a playing field of political parties.
The process to award contract in build, own, operate and transfer (BOOT) model to an Indian company was put on hold by the government led by Sushil Koirala after the process brewed controversy.
Later, the erstwhile government led by KP Sharma Oli decided to terminate the contract process and build the expressway by mobilizing internal resources. It even allocated Rs 10 billion for the project in the current fiscal year. The project will not only shorten travel time to tarai to around an hour but also save consumption of petroleum products worth Rs 5 billion annually.
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