The 36-km Narayanghat-Mugling road is considered as one of the most vital road links in Nepal as it connects the country’s southern, eastern and western parts with its two main urban hubs: Kathmandu and Pokhara. The task of ‘upgrading’ the road to a two-lane highway that meets ‘Asian standards’ has been continuing for the past two years. As per the contract, the project should have been completed this December, but with not even half the job done, it is unlikely to be completed on time. In fact, with every passing day, the road builders are undoing their own work. The heavy machinery they have used on the boulders besides the road has led to a drastic increase in the number of landslides. With the onset of monsoon, as many as 29 places along the road section have been flagged as prone to landslides. With an increase in rainfall expected for the next few weeks, project officials expect the situation to get worse, making the road that on a normal day sees 10,000 vehicles nearly impassable. Already, some sections of the road like the Kalikhola are witnessing daily landslides. Last Thursday, four police officials were buried alive there.
This neglect of one of the most important roads in Nepal is unjustifiable. Why have the construction companies responsible for this road not been made answerable, for their faulty engineering and for their inexcusable delays? How can you take up the work of road improvement and leave it, on the project completion date, in a worse state than the state you inherited it? Why has the project not been completed on time despite the construction companies blocking the entire 36-km stretch for work for six hours every single day? Project officials say that the project is proving to be more challenging than they had initially anticipated. This is a lame excuse. Why did they then take up the work without proper homework? Directly or indirectly, the project management has been responsible for many deaths, some destruction of property and for inordinate suffering of hundreds of thousands of commuters who rely on this road every year. But successive governments must also accept responsibility for their dereliction of duty.
People working away from their homes in urban hubs like Kathmandu and Pokhara are struggling to get back to their home districts to cast their ballots in the second phase of local election. After three months, Province 2 will go to local election. It will also be the time of annual festivities. By the looks of things, Narayanghat-Mugling road will continue to be obstructed at that time, by dry landslides after the end of wet monsoon, greatly hindering people’s movement. It will be criminal to disenfranchise people and prevent them from meeting their loved ones during the festivals because of the carelessness (and callousness) of our road builders. Continued obstruction of such a vital road link will also be costly. This is why speeding up upgrade of Narayanghat-Mugling road and making it safe for commute in the next few months should be among the immediate priorities of the new Deuba government.