DOLAKHA, Nov 20: The Charikot-Khadichaur road widening project has come to a halt due to the negligence of the authorities concerned and the contractors, locals alleged. The delays in upgrading the road that links the mid hilly districts with Kathmandu has made it inconvenient to the business fraternity, and millions of commoners who use the road regularly. The Charikot-Khadichaur road connects Kathmandu with Sindhupalchowk, Dolakha, and Ramechhap, among other hilly districts.
Contractors have left their work incomplete in many sections of the road and ‘disappeared’. The Lamosakhu-Jiri road section is one of those sections that have not been completed. Locals lament that instead of upgrading the road, the contractors destroyed the road which they asserted was far better then what it is nowadays. Due to the incomplete construction work, the section of the road has become very dangerous for the vehicles to ply, they claim.
“Contractors start working on the roads with heavy duty machinery and dozers. They dig the road and its wall and then disappear without completing the project,” said Anshu Dhital of Chairkot. “They make things only worse.”
On the sides of the road, heaps of aggregates are piled up but there are no workers working nearby. It has been many months since the workers stopped working on the road. Dhital said that the construction materials have been left unattended for many months now and nobody has been taking care of them.
“What we cannot understand is the way they work. Once they start working on it why don’t’ they finish it on time. When you start working on something like a road expansion project, you have to understand that it affects the public directly. You should be more responsible. Considering the way the contractors and authorities concerned have been working on this project, it is evident both parties lack a sense of responsibility,” she fumed. “It is very discouraging to see that neither the contractors nor the government officials seem to notice how the incomplete project is affecting the people.”
The 55 kilometers Charikot-Khadichuar road is part of the Araniko Highway. Its widening had kicked off four years ago. The estimated cost of the project at the time was Rs 1.2 billion. Since the last two years, the contractors have not worked on the project and as such even if the work resumes it is expected to raise the budget of the project.
“Upgrading of the road has been left midway in Khadichur, Mude, Charikot area. The road is a total mess in these areas,” Dhital said. “Travelling through these road sections scares everyone. It is very precarious.”
Nepali companies Sunaulo Khimti and Gauri Parbati were given the contract of Khadichaur-Mude road widening project which is 25 kilometers long.
According to Dormani Poudel, director of the Gauri Parbati company, Sunaula Khimti was pulled into controversy on a tax evasion case. Subsequently, his company was handed over the project. “We took the work in hand in a very difficult situation. On top of that, even the locals have not supported us. The concerned rural municipality has created additional obstacles, “he said.
“The rural municipality is demanding that we pay taxes according to the present tax rates for the aggregates that we collected from the locality last year. Such a practice is not fair. People do not understand these technical matters and they put all the blame on contractors,” Paudel said.
Belafi Rural Municipality wants the company to pay the current tax rate. But the company is reluctant to do so.
“If they had not created this kind of problem, we would have expedited the construction after Dashain. But in the present condition it is not possible for us to continue,” Poudel said.
He stated that the company has done all other required preparations for completing the project but warned that if the rural municipality does not ‘compromise’ on its proposed tax rates, it might be difficult for the company to continue the project.
“We have already brought a dozen trippers, loaders, and other pieces of equipment for starting the project. There are blocks and aggregates are already piled up on the road. If we are not able to work immediately, completing the project later will be very costly,” Poudel said.
Though the project is in limbo, the government is yet to appoint an official for overlooking the implementation of the project. Earlier chief of the project, Kedar Prasad Nepal was transferred to the Division Road Office in Palpa one and half month ago.
“The work was not going fine even when the project had a chief. In absence of the project head, further delays can be expected in taking decisions. Work obviously will slow down unless a new chief is appointed,” noted Dhital.