Burtibang along the Mid-Hill Highway among other nine proposed modern towns in disarrayAccording to the proposed modern town plan, the construction of roads, bus park, schools, colleges, hospitals, electricity, and water supply among other infrastructures should be prioritised.
A decade ago, the Ministry of Urban Development had selected 10 settlements along the Mid-Hill Highway to be developed as “modern towns”. The government planned to complete the project within 15 years of the launch by investing Rs 5 billion for each town. However, with only five years to reach the deadline, the towns lie in a dismal state, far from what was envisioned.
Burtibang in Baglung, one of the 10 chosen settlements, lies as if it were in the wake of destruction with incomplete infrastructure—public buildings abandoned mid-construction and roads left half-built.
The other nine settlements—Basantapur in Tehrathum, Phidim in Panchthar, Dumre Bhansar in Tanahun, Baireni Galchhi in Dhading, Khurkot in Sindhuli, Chaurjahari in Rukum, Rakam Karnali in Dailekh, Sanfebagar in Achham and Patan in Baitadi—all lie in a state of neglect, say locals.
In Burtibang, the roads are narrow and full of potholes, the construction of roadside drainages is incomplete and the bus park is congested and dusty. The upgradation of the local health institution is yet to kick-off while the efforts of catering other amenities are going at a snail’s pace, according to Ram Subedi, a local.
According to the proposed modern town plan, roads, bus parks, schools, colleges, hospitals, electricity, and water supply, among other infrastructure, should be constructed in Burtibang and other identified settlements for them to qualify as ‘modern towns’. But none of the development works has gained momentum; some are yet to take off.
Abhishek Adhikari, the Baglung chief of the project, admits the delay in infrastructure development in Burtibang, and cites a lack of coordination between project officials and the municipalities as the reason behind the delay.
“The roads are narrow and the drainage is in a poor state since it’s an old town. Many roadside houses should be demolished to widen the roads. The municipality [Dhorpatan municipality where Burtibang lies] is yet to fix the guidelines for widening roads and constructing other infrastructure,” said Adhikari.
The detailed project report for the Burtibang town management was prepared two years ago. This charted out a plan to build a modern bus park. However, the construction of the bus park is yet to begin. The project purchased about five ropanis of land on the banks of a local stream, which is not a suitable site for a bus park for risks of inundation, said Subedi, the local.
“The proposed bus park will be inundated during the monsoon. It would be a waste of time and money to build a bus park on that site,” he said.
Similarly, the plan to upgrade the local primary health centre in Burtibang to a well-facilitated hospital is in limbo. The health facility was to be upgraded to a 50-bed hospital some seven years ago. “The health centre needs to be upgraded to a hospital. We neither have the infrastructure nor the resources to provide the necessary services,” said Dr Milan Malla of the health centre. According to him, there are three doctors posted at the health centre, which sees about 150 patients per day.
The municipality is dissatisfied with the delayed work of the project. Burtibang Mayor Dev Kumar Nepali voiced his concerns about the project not carrying out its work with due diligence.
“We have provided our suggestions to help expedite the project work but the project officials are ignoring our requests saying that the project comes under the federal government,” said Nepali.
In Burtibang, the project aims to develop infrastructure that can accommodate around 100,000 people, but Nepali claims the project is unable to manage even the present population of 30,000.
Dolraj Dhakal, the chief administrative officer of the municipality, believes that a lack of interest and coordination from the project officials is what has delayed the overall work in Burtibang.
“Coordination is necessary between the municipality and the project officials to facilitate work,” he said.
Meanwhile, Komal Chandra Sah, an engineer at the project, said that he is positive about completing the project before its deadline. He claimed that the construction of about 30 percent of the roads in Burtibung is complete while 50 percent work of setting up the drainage system is also reaching completion.
“We are now searching for a land plot to set up an integrated settlement,” he said.