Roadway cutting across rocky hills brings renewed hope to Karnali

Published On: June 13, 2016 02:00 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KALIKOT, June 12: They had a dream to see vehicles plying in their place as in any other towns of the country. But this dream seemed to remain a dream because of weak governance, disturbed polity and above all the seemingly impossible rocky hills. However, Nepal Army has answered their patience lastly. Locals in Karnali are thrilled that they could recently see four wheelers playing on the stretches of the Karnali road that the NA had started constructing since last year. A feat that remained unachieved by others in the past two decades.

On 4 June, seven jeeps plied through the Karnali corridor. To the great excitement of the locals, these jeeps had made it through seven kilometers connecting Regil, Jite, Lalighat area. On 22 June, 2015 Nepal Army was handed over the responsibility of the road and it gave expected results by crushing down mighty rocks along the track.

“We are feeling really happy that the work went on so well. Seeing vehicles running here was long held dream of the people and ours,” said NA's construction chief Colonel Indrabir Gurung. “This was one of the most challenging sections due to huge rocks. Cutting across them was seen a very difficult task earlier,” he added.

Millions of rupees have already been spent for Karnali corridor, which is one of the national pride projects. Locals who used to slam the government for not delivering results even in two decades have now thanked Nepal Army for showing a ray of hope. People of Humla, Jumla, Mugu and Kalikot have felt that having access to transportation services in the Karnali region does not remains a far-fetched dream now. “It took some time to blast the rocks in necessary places through Khulakhu - Humla. After we took over the project, we have maintained our progress on the project,” said Gurung.

 By the time the corridor would be completed, 40 kilometer road in Kalikot, 40 kilometer road in Bajura and 112 kilometer of road section in Humla would be constructed.

In 2001, the then deputy Prime Minister Ram Chandra Poudel had inaugurated Karnali corridor. However, not much progress was made in constructing the 192 kilometer road from Khulalu of Kalikot to Similkot of Humla in 15 years. Following protests from the locals, the project was handed over to Nepal Army.

Gurung said that the army is now fast crushing the rocks at Aamtda and Bhurabhagar hills. He added that 68 kilometers of the road section would be completed by this fiscal year. “We have targeted to complete the work in the next four years. There are many more giant rocks to crush down,” he said.  

Road to prosperity
This road is considered literally a road to prosperity by Karnali residents. They state that the lack transportation facility was the only reason why Karnali remained the most backward zone till now. With the road links business, tourism, job opportunities would flourish bringing in money and power to the once neglected zone, said Harsha Bahadur Bam, Nepali congress leader in Humla. He added that Karnali would be a transit for three countries - Nepal, India and China, once the road comes in its final shape. “Huge numbers of people love to come to Mansarover. It joins all the three nations actually. There are many other reasons why this place can be a business and religious hub for many from those three countries,” Bam said. Karnali corridor touches both China and India border.

Financial embezzlement

Since the beginning of the construction of the road in 2001, reports have surfaced of alleged embezzlement of millions of rupees. Fake bills relating to the road construction have been found to be submitted to the Road Department, Peace Ministry, District Development Committee of Mugu and several other related organizations.

Though no visible progress has been made in constructing the 40 kilometer road section in Kalikot, Road Department data informs that Rs 7 million by DDC, Rs 230.6 million by the Road department itself and Rs 50 million by Peace Ministry, among others, have spent for the road section. This was before NA took over. “If we look at the report of road department, huge amount has been used for construction. But no stone has been thrown away for constructing the road if you look at the track,” Gurung remarked.

Narendra Shahi, UML leader in Kalikot stated that locals had pressurized for the need to hand over the task to NA due to lack of progress in the road construction. Even the news of the financial embezzlement was known to many and that's why, they were not ready to tolerate that any longer, he said.

“Since taking over the project, the NA has shown great results in completing the project. Not only that, it now expects to bring down the estimated construction cost,” said Shahi.

Consultants had estimated the cost of the road to reach over 2 billion. However, detailed project report of NA has shown the work could be done in lesser budget. “The cost is expected to come down by half than what the road department had shown earlier,” said Gurung. “Details of it can be elaborated only after conducting further study into the issue,” he added.

Photo caption: Vehicles pass through an under construction section of the Karnali corridor in this recent picture.

Leave A Comment