KATHMANDU, Nov 16: The previous government's declaration in May to build the Kathmandu-Tarai Fast-Track road on its own was widely welcomed and many hoped to see steady progress in the dream project, but so far there has been no action at all.
Five months have elapsed since the announcement was made to build the 76 km road to connect with the tarai and an amount of Rs 10 billion was allocated. The mega project shortens travel time to the tarai to one hour and has huge economic significance for the country.
Ministries are required to work out the detailed outline of priority projects in the weeks immediately after the fiscal year begins and get this approved from the National Planning Commission. But this is one of the projects that has been left out.
Such approval paves the way for starting the contract and procurement processes. Secretary at the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport Dhan Bahadur Tamang admitted that nothing has happened yet with the Fast Track project. Tamang declined to go into the reasons behind keeping the priority project in limbo.
The government of KP Sharma Oli had announced to build the project on its own in its annual budget program. It changed the ongoing contract process with a consortium of Indian companies led by Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services and Transportation Networks, on a public private partnership model. At the time Oli was being replaced by Pushpa Kamal Dahal and he had asked Dahal to ensure implementation of some projects including the Fast Track. But Dahal's government has ignored the project despite his promise to Oli.
Erstwhile minister for physical infrastructure and transport Bimalendra Nidhi was for awarding the project to the consortium but he had drawn wide criticism and the Nepali Congress was also dragged into the controversy after its president, Sher Bahadur Deuba, said it should be awarded to the Indian company.
Nidhi had tried to award the project with bloated costing as well as to pay Rs 15 billion a year as minimum vehicle guarantee to the consortium, thus placing a burden on state coffers. But the project award was alleged to be without open competition regarding several issues. This drew wide criticism and Niddhi had to backtrack. Nidhi is now home minister.
Meanwhile, ruling on a writ petition filed to stop the government from awarding the project to the Indian consortium, the Supreme Court said it ded not need to issue an interim order as the government had already decided to build the project on its own. But the government has not yet terminated the contract process with the consortium officially.
Parliament's Development Committee has repeatedly drawn the attention of the government to expedite the plan and programs to execute the project. Committee Chairman Rabindra Adhikari said, "Government has no option but to implement this project and more delay makes the country lose an opportunity."