Protests against project delays

Published On: November 17, 2019 09:17 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

One of the reasons why people are frustrated with the government is because the infrastructure projects launched by the government hardly ever get completed on time. Yes, there are exceptions. For example, the construction of 12.2-kilometer long tunnel Bheri-Babai Diversion Multipurpose Project was completed a year before the deadline and within the allocated budget in April this year. But other projects lie in limbo for years. The most egregious neglect on project completion has been Melamchi Drinking Water project. Over two decades after this project was initiated in the late 1990s, Melamchi still remains a pipe dream for the residents of Kathmandu.  After the Italian contractor abandoned the work in December last year, the project work came to a halt. Only in August this year, the government awarded the contract of remaining works to the Chinese company, Sino Hydro Corporation Limited but whether it will be completed within stipulated time is still under question.  The delay in such projects has started to enrage people.  There have already been a couple of protests in Kathmandu against Melamchi delay. The protests against the delay and the contractors responsible for it are slowly gaining momentum. 

The recent case in point is the protest by the locals of Bhaktapur against the delay in maintenance of road from Bhaktapur to Nagarkot. The infuriated locals there have adopted the new way of venting their dissatisfactions. They have posted pamphlets and posters depicting the pictures of Sharada Adhikari, the contractor who bagged the road expansion project but who has been neglecting his duty, at the electric poles alongside the road.  The locals think contractor Adhikari, who is said to be enjoying protection of ruling party chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, is solely responsible for the perennial delay of the works which should have been completed by 2017. So they made collage of photos of different animals including dog and monkey and Adhikari at the electric poles alongside the road. They have also posted the photo of the contractor on the vehicles plying the road in a bid to exert pressure to complete the project at the earliest. Apparently, Adhikari is neglecting his duty because Dahal is living in a house which belongs to Adhikari.

The concerns of the locals are genuine and they must be addressed immediately. This is especially so because we are only a month away from welcoming the Visit Nepal 2020, during which Nepal aims to bring as many as two million tourists to the country. Nagarkot is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Nepal but with the road connecting this beautiful hill town with main cities of Kathmandu Valley in a mess, the flow of tourists has sharply gone down. According to the local entrepreneurs, hotels in Nagarkot have a capacity to host 800 tourists a day but even half of this number do not make it to Nagarkot.  We cannot promote tourism if we keep our roads in state of disrepair. While the government must ensure that Bhaktapur-Nagarkot road expansion works get completed at the earliest, it must also mobilize its machineries to ensure that infrastructure related projects elsewhere in the country also get completed within the time period mentioned in the contract. People are not going to stay quiet. Locals of Bhaktapur have started to protest against delays. People elsewhere will also follow suit.

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