Haphazard road construction destroys lives, livelihoods in rural districts

Published On: September 3, 2019 09:41 AM NPT By: DIL BAHADUR CHHATYAL/JAGAT KHADKA /BIRA GADAL

DHANGADHI, BAJHANG, BAITADI, Sept 3: The construction of a road in a village is normally regarded as a boon. But this is hardly a case in most rural districts which have witnessed a spree of road construction in recent years. 

Haphazard construction of road using excavators in rural areas without any study or technical consideration has proved to be destructive. While these roads have led to frequent road accidents, claiming scores of lives annually, they have also triggered landslides mainly during the rainy season, leaving a number of people either killed or displaced. 

This haphazard road construction has not only forced people to desert their homes out of fear of landslides, but also forced them to live under the constant fear of such calamity. A large number of human settlements are left vulnerable to landslide as the construction of roads in rural areas undermine the aspects of feasibility study and detailed project report before carrying out the actual construction works. 

Haphazard use of excavators to construct roads on the slopes has also invited negative environmental consequences. “There has been destruction in the name of development,” complained Shiva Bista of Thalara Rural Municipality-9 in Bajhang district. “The landslide triggered by road construction has destroyed my house and the land that was the only means of our livelihood.” Bista said the injury he received in his leg three months ago due to the falling stones from the newly constructed roads is yet not healed. 

Bista is just a case in a point. Many other villagers have faced a similar fate as they are also forced to be displaced from their homes after the haphazard construction of roads has triggered landslides in many places. “Entire settlements have been deserted due to the fear of landslides due to road construction,” he said. 

Bista complained that his suggestion that the construction of road by using excavator could pose threats to the entire village was not heard by anyone. “We had appealed to the District Administration Office, Rural Municipality office and other places not to construct the roads that could prove destructive to us. But no one heard us then. But now the same roads  wreaked havoc during this monsoon season,” he further said.

Locals complain that it is still uncertain if any vehicles would be able to ply the road, but they are already displaced from their ancestral place. 

The roads constructed without geological test and proper estimate in Bajhang districts had left a number of villages including Afala, Malumela, Mouil, Chaudam, Subeda, Jaltadi, Kheti, Kuwapani, Bagad, Dugri, Jui, Toli, Bidaajaa, Sailabagar, Sunikot, Chod Basti, Dhari Sunkuda, Bhande Kachali, Juila Bhyagute, Badakot and Chuhawan deserted. It is estimated that some 42 families are completely displaced and over 500 households are vulnerable to landslides owing to such road construction. 

Locals complained that all local, provincial and federal governments have been endorsing cadres-centric budget to continue with haphazard construction of roads that are not based on the real needs of local population but are constructed purely on an ad hoc basis. Chief District Officer of Bhajhang Naresh Sunar, who was recently transferred from the district, said a large number of local people had to lose their cultivable land and their own homes owing to such construction.

A number of other villages including several villages in Dogadakedar Rural Municipality, Thalalagaun, Okhalbaata, Setiigaaun, Saugaun as well other villages in the district are also facing similar problems. 

CDO Sunar said such kind of construction has also posed threat to Jaya Prithivi Highway—the only highway linking the district. “The road constructed on an ad hoc basis has caused various problems such as landslide-induced accidents and displacement of human settlements,” he said. 

Locals argue that such development have benefited the local politicians as they can make money out of it, but this has left the local population to face huge destruction in their livelihood. “A road construction worth Rs 200,000 has caused loss amounting over Rs 100 million in Jaya Prithivi Highway as part of the highway is destroyed by landslide triggered such haphazard road construction,” said civil society leader Dharma Jung Singh. 

In Bajhang alone, there are more than 219 roads and 11 other road sections are currently under construction. In the last one year alone, a total of 27 people were killed and 41 others were severely injured in the accidents in these road constructed without any engineering considerations.

Similar is the problem in Baitadi district too. At least six households were displaced and 25 other households are left highly vulnerable to landslide after road was constructed without any technical study in Mallodhole area in Sunarya Rural Municipality-8 in the district some one month ago. “A massive landslide that occurred above the newly-constructed road has left a household to lose everything, while five other households are forced to take refuge at their relatives' places over fear of possible landslide,” said a local Prem Bahadur Bohora. 

Bohora said they had suggested constructing road from other areas as haphazard construction of road using excavators could trigger landslide on the slope. “But no one paid heed to our suggestion. The entire village has now come under risk,” said another local Ammar Singh Bohora. 

A road stretch from Dholayamod to Sunarya Rural Municipality-8 was constructed last fiscal year at the cost of Rs 9.5 million. “The stones and soil that were dug during road construction have been deposited in their cultivable land. All households in the village are in danger due to incessant landslide. Entire human settlement is now in danger due to the road construction,” said Birpal Bohara.

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