Govt plan to build new towns along mid-hill highway in limbo

Published On: January 12, 2023 10:30 AM NPT By: Himal Lamsal

KATHMANDU, Jan 12: The government’s project to establish new towns in the mid-hills has not been able to gain momentum even after a decade. 

In the fiscal year 2067/68, the government had announced plans to build 10 towns along the Mid-hill Highway.

Due to the lack of budget and coordination, the new city development plan that was announced a decade ago has not yet materialized. The tendency of the government to announce new cities but not act accordingly has stalled the construction of the new cities. 

Along with the Mid-hill Highway, the government had announced an ambitious plan to build two new cities in each development region based on population density, migration, non-agricultural activities, literacy, electricity distribution etc.

According to the plan, Fidim of Panchthar, Basantapur of Tehrathum, Khurkot of Sindhuli, Baireni and Galchi of Dhading, Dumre of Tanahun, Burtibang of Baglung, Chaurjahari of Rukum, Rakam-Karnali of Dailekh, Sanfebagar of Achham and Patan of Baitadi were selected for the project.

In due course of time, the government announced plans to build more than 54 new towns, smart towns and Himalayan settlements, but the construction of even one of the proposed towns has not been completed.

Ekraj Adhikari, project director of the New Town Project Coordination Office, says that due to limited budget, the new town project could not be materialized at the expected speed. 

"Building a new town is not like building a normal infrastructure. It will take one and a half to two decades to organize the town,” he said, “The work of building a town is not immediately visible like building a bus park. It takes a lot of time to do all kinds of organized infrastructure and urbanization that is essential for the town.”

The project officer said that the work was not done as expected due to the fact that the new town was being announced but the budget was not allocated. "Since FY 67/68, a total of 54 new towns have been announced," he said, “Although the government announced plans to build new cities in the year 2067/68, the budget was allocated only from the year 2070/71.”

There are 12 new towns proposed in the Postal Highway and 15 towns in the Mid-Hill Highway of Terai Madhesh.

Similarly, there are 10 smart towns under the Himalayan settlements and 17 other smart towns in the first, second and third phases. According to the project office, the government allocated a budget of only Rs 201 million for the new towns in the year 2070/71. The project office said that since 2070/71, only Rs 12.85 billion have been spent for the new cities.

The project office says that the government must allocate a sufficient budget for the development of new towns.

"After the announcement of the towns, the people have high expectations, but due to the lack of budget, we have a problem in its implementation," he said, “The office is currently working on the creation of DPR for the new towns and the construction of essential infrastructure. Out of the 10 new cities of the Mid-hill Highway that have been implemented now, four projects are without a project leader. Even now there is no project leader in Patan of Baitadi, Sanfebagar of Achham, Dumre of Tanahun and Rakam Karnali of Dailekh.”

According to the office, the problem at present is that the new programs are being run under the annual budget. "It is necessary that the new town program should be taken under a multi-year program," he said, "This will also speed up the construction work."

According to the project office, it is necessary to approve the master plan according to the detailed project report (DPR) prepared in line with the approved Morphological Retention and Enhancement Plan and proceed to the multi-year procurement process.

“ We have felt the need to discourage small piecemeal programs and prioritize impactful big multi-year programs.”

The office is suffering from a severe shortage of manpower required for the implementation of the new town project. 

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