KATHMANDU, August 25: A decade and a half ago, the government launched a plan to build the Mid-Hill highway connecting the east-west highway with domestic investment. The progress of this road plan, which was promoted as a lifeline to connect 26 hill districts of the country, has been ignored.
According to the government's revised work schedule, the goal is to blacktop 1,879 kilometers of the Mid-Hill Highway, a project of national pride, by the fiscal year 2079/80. According to the revised schedule, the deadline of the project is now only 11 months.
Toward progress, only 1,259 kilometers of the road has been paved. Revised schedules to complete the project have been published several times but it is not yet confirmed when this project will be completed. According to the target, 620 kilometers of the road is yet to be paved. Not only that, the contract management of 250 km section and 19 bridges under the project have not been done yet.
The Pushpalal Mid-Hill Highway Project Director Harikumar Pokharel says that the construction of the Mid-Hill highway will not be completed within the current financial year. “According to the revised schedule, this project is scheduled to be completed within the current financial year,” he said, “620 kilometers of roads are yet to be paved under this project”. Therefore, it seems that it will take at least four years to complete this project.
Pokharel, said that in some districts of the project, the contract could not be managed due to changes in the layout of the roads. "Due to the Sunkoshi 3 Hydroelectric Project, the alignment of the road has changed, it will take some time to construct the bridge," he said.
According to the project, contract management work has not yet been done in the 250 km area "Now, the work of preparing the DPR for the road in that area has reached the final stage," he said, "Now the contract process will proceed soon." The project director Pokharel says that due to the hilly terrain, many problems have arisen and the construction of the road has become complicated.
"In some places, due to obstruction by the locals, the project has not been able to work as per the target," Pokharel said. "The contracts of 19 bridges under the project have not yet been managed." The government introduced the concept of Mid-Hill Highway in the financial year 2064/65. The construction of the project was started during the time when Surendra Pandey was the finance minister.
In the initial phase, the project was targeted to be completed within the year 2017/18, but due to the inaction of the officials concerned, the delay by the contractor company, the compensation dispute and the inability to manage the contract for the remaining sections, the construction of the project has been delayed beyond the stipulated time. The government is constructing this highway to connect 26 districts and 215 settlements in the mid-hill region from Chiwa Bhanjyang in Panchthar to Jhulaghat in Baitadi.
The overall physical progress of the Mid-Hill Highway was 64.16 percent by the end of June of the financial year 2021/22. Out of 1879 km, 797 km has been paved by the project and 462 km by other bodies. So far, 1259 kilometers have been tarred. The construction of as many as 93 out of 137 bridges under the project has been completed. Currently, 415 kilometers of road and 25 bridges are under construction.
The cost tripled
When this project was started, the initial cost was estimated at Rs a little over 33 billion. In the initial phase, the target of this project was to be completed within the year 2074/75, but due to the lack of timely construction, the revised cost of the project has now reached over Rs 101 billion.