Long way to NarayangadhThe endless road expansion project, which began in 2019, has become a nuisance for travellers.
Those willing to understand how badly our infrastructure development system is doing needn’t look any further than the Butwal-Narayangadh section of the East-West Highway. It takes between 6 to 8 hours to cover the 114-km stretch, a far cry from the normal 2 to 3 hours, as a road expansion project is underway. A pathway to the western, mid-western and far western parts of the country, the road section is now full of diversions, potholes and various other kinds of obstructions to vehicular movement.
As a result, the road expansion project, which began in 2019, has become a nuisance for travellers, who often have to take a flight from Bhairahawa, causing a hole in their purses. Those who cannot afford to fly have to take that dilapidated road and face significant losses in terms of comfort, earning and health. It is not only passengers who are inconvenienced by the project being executed senselessly. Those living along the road stretch have been facing the brunt of the problem as their homes and businesses are covered in dust, and they suffer from pollution-related ailments.
As if the trouble caused to the people was not enough, the project itself is running late, with only 15 percent of the work having been completed as of March while the deadline is August this year. As the Post reported on Monday, work progress in March stood at 1.9 percent while the target was 4 percent. As the delay mounts up, the developers will have no option but to seek an extension of the deadline. That means the hardships are here to stay for years even as government officials and road developers continue to avoid accountability.
What’s more, the hardship caused by it is symptomatic of the larger malaise in our infrastructure development system. The question that comes to mind immediately is: What stops the developers from starting work at one short stretch at a time, completing it, and then moving on to another? That would save travellers and locals a lot of trouble. But thinking about the problems of others, it seems, it is not in the DNA of the administrators and developers who work in Nepal, for they seem to be able to get away with anything in the name of development.
The lack of accountability means that the developers fail so much as to water the road to make the dust settle, causing significant harm to the environment apart from the people. And yet, this is a story that repeats itself in each such project, be it the expansion of the Pokhara-Muglin section of Prithvi Highway, or the expansion of roads in Kathmandu Valley. At the heart of the problem is not the idea of road expansion itself, but the inconsiderate nature of the administrators and developers who fail to keep the people and the environment in mind while planning and executing such schemes. It is time they realised that infrastructure development projects cannot cause endless trouble to the people and burden the environment that is already under stress.