PANCHTHAR, Feb 9: Works on Koshi Corridor – the fast track project that would connect the country's eastern hills to tarai and the federal capital Kathmandu – is taking place in a rapid pace under the Koshi Corridor Road Development Project-2'
The 148-kilometer double lane road starts from Ganesh Chowk of Panchthar, connects Chatara of Sunsari along the banks of Tamor and Koshi Rivers. If completed, it would connect the residents of Panchthar, Taplejung, Terhathum, and Dhankuta to tarai belt.
With an investment of Rs 6.15 billion, the work is taking place under seven packages. The project's contractor is responsible for the development of the road track and upgrading the road to gravel level road.
According to the project's office, they are currently working on opening tracks and upgrading it. So far, around 22 percent of the work has been completed, informed Aviman Mulmi, chief of the project.
“This track will connect eastern hills to tarai belt and tarai to Kathmandu. The work is progressing at a good pace with all contractors fulfilling their parts well. We are confident that all the works will complete on time,” said Mulmi.
He further said that there has been strong excitement among the locals. “Indeed, if completed, the road will not only ease transportation but also help in the development of trade and enterprises.”
Residents have good reasons to get excited. The road project will enable them to easily connect with Biratnagar Metropolitan City– the interim capital of Province 1, and other trade hubs of the country.
The project utilizes around 40 percent of old tracks and will not hamper the proposed Tamor Hydropower Project. The wide road is expected to bring many benefits to all levels.
As per the contract, all the works should be completed within 30 months of the project's initiation. Five packages were contracted in March, 2018, while the remaining two packages were contracted in May the same year.
The first package is given to Rasuwa/Tudi JV, the second package to Shrestha/MX/Thegim, third package to Lama/PS/Biruwa and the fourth package to Rautaha/Santoshi JV. Likewise, the fifth package is awarded to Sharma and Company, sixth to Kalika/Thedung/Mahalaxmi JV while the seventh package is handed to Rautaha/Santoshi JV.
The road project's inception
Koshi Corridor Project was initiated with the objective to connect short roads of eastern hills to districts of tarai region. It is specially designed to shorten the travel time of Mid-hill Highway.
“This project carries big significance,” said Hemraj Bhandari, a former lawmaker from Dhankuta. “It will play big role in uplifting the living standard of rural hilly districts. At the same time, this will be a shorter route to connect hills and tarai districts.”
According to him, 17 lawmakers of four districts had lobbied the government a decade ago to start the project. Bhandari also shared confidence on the benefits of projects to national economy and the tourism sector.
“There was a proposal to shorten the distance of Mid-hill Highway. Three years ago, technical studies were conducted as a part of the feasibility studies,” said engineer Kuver Nepali.
The road project is considered as the shortest route to connect eastern hills to tarai region. From Phidim, one would be able to reach Biratnagar and Itahari and be back on the same day.
Likewise, this road is also considered as the shortest route to connect Nepal's area bordering China in the north with the country's area bordering the southern neighbor India.
“From Timpatala of China, it is just 280 kilometers to reach Rani custom office,” said engineer Nepali. “It is also the nearest road from headquarters of all the four districts of the province.”
The Mid-hill Highway connecting Kathmandu has many turns and twists. As a result, a shorter route has been sought. The Koshi Corridor fulfills to meet the role as it is being developed as an alternative highway to connect with Kathmandu.
The length of road connecting Panchthar district's headquarters Phidim to Jhapa's Charali is 139 kilometers. Likewise, it is 81 kilometers from Charali to Itahari. At the moment, it takes eight hours to reach Charali from Phidim. When the corridor project completes, the same distance would be just three hours.
Due to the heavy investment made in the project, locals are expecting the road to be of high standard.
Former lawmaker Bhandari said the corridor will have important economic significance. According to him, it will enable the development of agriculture, tourism, and new markets.
“Locals will be easily able to import agricultural tools and equipment needed for industrialization. Overall, the project will greatly contribute to economic prosperity,” he said.
Currently, traders and entrepreneurs have started opening their ventures along the road's surroundings. Hotels have started to sprout along the roads. Local products can easily reach these entrepreneurs, aiding in overall livelihood development of surrounding settlements.