Disputes in construction of Mid Hill Highway in LamjungOver 800 households will be affected if the Mid Hill Highway project comes through in Sundarbazaar.
Residents of Sundarbazaar in Lamjung for the past five years have been protesting the government’s plan to construct a section of the Mid Hill Highway through the settlement. The protest flared up recently after the locals obstructed road officials from surveying the road project.
The government plans to use a road section that runs through the settlement as a part of the Mid Hill Highway. However, the road was constructed by the community for their personal use and not as a part of the highway project, said Nabin Shrestha, a resident of Khatrithanti.
“The Mid Hill Highway cannot run through this way,” said Shrestha. “The government should find other alternatives to construct the highway.”
According to locals, they also met with the Minister of Physical Infrastructure and Transport a few weeks ago to discuss the issue, but the minister did not pay heed to their concerns. Over 800 households in Sundarbazaar area stands to be affected if the highway runs through the settlement. Uttam Gurung, the coordinator of the struggle committee formed to protest against the government’s plan, said Sundarbazaar residents will not allow authorities to run the Mid Hill Highway through the middle of the settlement.
“The government find alternatives to run the road from the upper or lower part of the settlement. They should not be allowed to cut through the main town area,” Gurung said.
The authorities plan to construct a road section from Paundi to Sundarbazaar. Around 8km of the road stretch goes through the Sundarbazaar area.
According to the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport, settlements that run along national highways should leave a minimum space of 31 metres (on both sides from the centre of the road) while constructing physical infrastructures, including houses.
“Our houses and properties will be destroyed if we let authorities open a national highway through our settlement. We cannot spare our land to the road project and turn into landless squatters,” Shrestha said.
Galu Miya, former chairman of Sundarbazaar Unit of Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the unit has submitted a memorandum to the ministry and Gandaki Province through the chief district officer.
“If authorities do not address our demand, we will intensify our protest programmes,” said Miya.
Janakraj Mishra, mayor of Sundarbazaar Municipality, said the municipal office does not agree with the government’s plan for the Mid Hill Highway.
“We will not allow the construction of the road through the settlement. That will make the locals landless, and we are committed to stopping that from happening,” said Misha at a press conference on Thursday.
Dwarika Prasad Mishra, a resident of Sundarbazaar, said the concerned authorities have not paid attention to the locals’ problems.
“We have never been against development. All we want is to keep our land and properties intact,” Mishra said.
A task force led by Ram Sharan Basnet, provincial minister of Gandaki Province, was also formed to address the issue. A few months ago, the task force had collected details from Sundarbazaar and submitted a report to the central government, but the locals haven’t been brought abreast to the recommendation provided by the task force.