A section of the Taplejung-Tibet road in Lelep, Taplejung in this recent picture. Khagendra Adhikari/Republica
TAPLEJUNG, Dec 12: Construction of the Taplejung-Tibet road which will link the eastern part of the country to China has been in a limbo due to the government's apathy. Even though the idea of constructing the road was highly prioritized when India had imposed an economic blockade on the country, the government has not retained the same spirit in constructing it.
The road that reaches to Tiptala border point of Tibet through the district headquarters of Fungling is 112 kilometers. Until last year, the government was working on this track. But this year, the speed of the construction has slowed down considerably. However, on the other side of the border, the Chinese government is working in full speed to construct the road. Locals lament that the road till Tiptala, which is being constructed by the Chinese is going to be smooth and wide.
The reason behind the lack of progress on completing the project is the lack of budget. This fiscal year, the government did not allocate a budget for the project, according to concerned officials. The officials related to the North-South Highway informed that the budget for completing the project was not allocated while it was already underway. Along with that coming into existence of the local government has added to the uncertainty of construction of the road.
The office of the project which was in Fungling was displaced after the local body came in existence. In absence of the office, it is not known whether the project will ever regain life.
According to Kailash Dev, an engineer workinng on the road, informed that work is being done in certain segments of the road. But informed that he was not certain of the construction of the whole road. "From Olangchung Gola to Tiptala, 22 kilometers of the track is being widened. But the condition is not fine, vehicles cannot ply there," he said. "There is lack of budget for working properly on the road," he added.
The track was opened nine years ago. But since then work on it has been largely unorganized and improper. From Suketaar to Olangchang Gola, the length of the road track is 92 kilometers. In the beginning, the government had planned to complete the widening and upgrading of the road within five years. Officials said that the government had allocated Rs 800 million at the beginning for commencing the project.
Though the government prioritized upgrading the Taplejung-Tibet road during the Indian economic blockade, the project no more remains a priority project. This fiscal year, the government did not even allocate budget for it.
"At the beginning, Rs 800 million was released for the project. But in the years that followed, the government never allocated sufficient budget for the project," said Dev said.
This fiscal year, the government did not allocate any budget at all for the road. As such the project has come to a standstill.
At the project's office Fungling, the project was manned by a project chief, two engineers, four sub-engineers, a non-gazetted officer, a computer operator, and a office assistant. The entire team has stopped coming to office since November.
"We had no choice than to move out," said the project chief, Khadka Bahadur Shrestha. "We were providing salary to the staffs and officials till last month. But after we ran out of funds, we had no choice other then to quit. We are no more given the responsibility of constructing the road," he added.
This road is very important according to experts. This is the shortest way to China from the eastern part of the country. Through Mechi highway, from Jhapa, it is 265 kilometers to the China border.
From Tiptala border point, an optional road is also in the making. It gets through Tiptala - Olangchung Gola - Lelep - Tapethok - Dovan market - Change - Hangpang - Fulbari - Niguradin - Aparpur - Majhitaar - to Rani custom point of Biratnagar. "This is another important road. Segments of the road are under construction," Dev said.
People's representatives in Taplegunj have taken the construction of the roads very seriously. They have urged the government to prioritize constructing both the main and the optional route.
"If the government wants it, it will not take long to connect the eastern part of the country with China," said Saroj Aveng. "Chinese officials have also prioritized constructing the roads. They are working on their side, we must also push for completing it," he added.
Aveng urged for diplomatic initiation to bring the roads for expediating the construction. He also reminded of the need to construct bridges at several points. "It is sad to know that a major road like this did not recieve any budget at all in this fiscal year. We cannot afford to neglect the road. It links us to the other side of the border and it is in national interest," he maintained.