Upendra Yadav/Republica An electricity pole stands in the middle of the Manmat – Kalaiya – Matiarwa section of the Postal Highway, in Bara district in this recent picture.
BARA, April 15: Construction of the Postal Highway, which connects 20 districts of the Tarai belt, has failed to gain much momentum due to delays in land acquisition. The two-lane road has suffered delay at many blocks including Manmat – Kalaiya – Matiarwa. According to concerned officials, locals are not cooperating in the land acquisition process.
The Nepal and Indian government had signed an agreement on 6 June 2006 for constructing the 1440 kilometer long highway. According to the agreement, construction of 607 kilometers of the road was to be built under India’s supervision. However, another agreement was signed by both the governments on February 20, 2016, as the project failed to make any headway. Still, the ambitious project has been not able to pick up speed due to several reasons.
As per the agreement, the Nepal government is responsible for land acquisition including removing trees, houses, electric poles or homes obstructing the way. Acquiring land for the road has become the biggest challenge for the government.
According to Nipendra Karki, representative of one of the contractor companies – Aashish and DS JV Private Limited, construction of the road is underway in sections of the road where the government has acquired the land. “There are many areas where electric poles and houses have not removed or relocated. We have not worked in such places. We are working only in areas where it is possible to work,” he said. The company is responsible for constructing the Manmat – Kalaiya – Matiarwa section of the highway. “If such issues persist, it is going to delay construction of the project further,” he added.
Discussion of constructing the Postal Highway dates back to the Rana regime. Since then, many governments have put forward it as their priority, but that has been mostly limited to discussions. The issue has drawn news headline several times in the past, and it has not ceased to attract media attention. The people in the Tarai belt have always lamented on the delay and the government’s apathy towards the project. However, the issue of land acquisition has not been solved yet. While concerned government officials blamed locals for noncooperation, the latter, who own the space, decry the lack of adequate compensation from the government.
According to Rajesh Yadav, mayor of Kalaiya Sub Metropolis, removing the physical infrastructures has become difficult due to the compensation issue. There are a lot of electric poles as well, which is also a grave issue, he said.
“Some people rightfully own the land and deserve proper compensation. Some people have occupied the space illegally. Along with that, many electric poles also need to be managed to further the construction of the road. These are severe issues that need to be resolved,” he said.
According to existing government provisions, announced years earlier, 15-meter of land from the center of a highway belongs to the highway. The rule has restricted selling, buying and building of permanent infrastructure on such property. However, due to the failure of the land and revenue office of implementing the directive, the transaction of such land continued.
The contractor company has agreed with the Postal Highway Directorate that the work would complete by March this year. However, according to Karki, ‘it is nearly impossible’ unless the obstructions are resolved straight away.
“We cannot work smoothly in the current situation. We do not know how the government has planned to get it done,” Karki said. The deal for the 27 kilometers of the roadblock was signed three years ago with a budget of Rs 480.5 million.
According to Karki, the electricity department, sub metropolis and all other concerned bodies have been asked time and again to do their part of the job. ‘But nobody is worried about the time or delay,’ he said.
Karki further stated that the delay also happened because concerned authorities were not very clear about the design of the road earlier. “First they did not provide us design on time, next, even after the design was finalized, the track was not cleared for carrying out the construction of the road,” he lamented. If the infrastructures are not removed even now, contractor (his company) might have to quit, he warned.
The then Physical Infrastructure and Transport Minister, Ramesh Lekhak had visited this road section three years ago. He had said that the road was the government’s top priority.
Mayor Yadav meanwhile stated that the development would pick up pace very soon. “We are consulting with all the concerned bodies. I hope that the problems will be solved soon,” he said. He even slammed the central government for not taking due steps to address the issue of land acquisition. “Had the government provided compensation on time and done enough to clear the land, there would been no problem today. Anyway, we want to expedite the work, and we are consulting with all concerned bodies,” he said.