Provincial pride projects in Gandaki in limboPolitical instability, lack of coordination between federal and provincial governments, budget crunch, and the pandemic are cited as the reasons.
The first provincial government of Gandaki province set up after the country adopted the federal structure declared a string of infrastructure development projects under its ambitious ‘provincial pride projects’ banner. However, more than five years later, most of the pride projects either failed to take off or remain incomplete.
The Gandaki government put forward 23 different development projects as the pride projects of the province, according to the Provincial Policy and Planning Commission in Pokhara.
“Fifteen of them have not been implemented. Works are underway in only eight pride projects currently,” Subash Adhikari, a member of the commission, told the Post.
One of the Gandaki provincial government’s pride projects was setting up an industrial area on the border of Pokhara Metropolitan City Ward 33 in Kaski and Punditar of Tanahun district and at Lokahakhola area in Nawalpur.
The first provincial government led by chief minister Prithvi Subba Gurung declared it as the pride project of the province. However, the provincial executive failed to initiate work on the proposed industrial area during its first five-year tenure.
Ram Prasad Acharya, the undersecretary at the provincial Ministry of Industry, Tourism, Forest and Environment, says the failure to launch the project was due to the federal government’s hesitation to transfer the ownership of the land identified for the project to the Gandaki government.
“The pride project was left in limbo due to the long legal process of acquiring land,” said Acharya. “The cumbersome process led to delays and eventually the project never took off.”
The provincial government had also planned to build an ‘integrated provincial administrative centre’ to house all the ministries and other provincial-level offices. According to the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure Development and Transportation Management, this pride project also failed to kick off due to land issues.
With an objective of making Gandaki Province self-sufficient in dairy products, the provincial government decided to set up the Gandaki Cow Farm and Dairy Development Board in 2020 under a public-private partnership model. Besides forming the board, the project has seen no headway. “The programme was dragged into controversies. It was not implemented,” said Grishma Neupane, spokesperson at the provincial agricultural ministry.
The provincial government had brought various development plans and programmes including homestay expansion, poverty alleviation in rural areas, road upgrade, and setting up information technology parks, cable car routes, hospitals, and universities, among others.
The provincial government planned the Birethanti-Muktinath cable car project with the investment of the private sector. The project aimed to transport around 36,000 people at once to Muktinath, a famed temple sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists. The project also included the construction of a prayer hall in Muktinath temple premises with the capacity to host 10,000 devotees at a time and build an 85-metre tall Budhha statue.
The Covid pandemic and the reluctance of the private sector to invest in the ambitious project were some of the reasons the Gandaki government furnished for its inability to implement the project.
Out of the 23 pride projects, the construction of Gandaki University and the Pokhara-Dedgaun-Dumkibas-Tribeni road project has gathered momentum. The main building of the university is under construction in Pokhara Ward 32. The provincial university has already commenced classes of Bachelor of Pharmacy and BA LLB. The university has also established a research centre. Likewise, work on the Pokhara-Dedgaun-Dumkibas-Tribeni road project is ongoing. According to the project office, around 68 percent of the road project has been completed so far.
Political instability, lack of coordination between the federal and provincial governments, lack of sufficient budget, Covid pandemic, and shortage of government employees are some of the major reasons behind the failure of the pride projects in Gandaki province, say government officials.
“The provincial pride projects were hugely affected by the change of leadership in the provincial government. Insufficient budget for various multi-year projects also hindered most of these projects,” said Girdhari Sharma Paudel, the vice-chairman of the Provincial Policy and Planning Commission. The failure to enhance private investment in infrastructure development is another reason for the project delay, he said.
Three politicians have served as the chief minister of Gandaki Province since the first provincial assembly election in 2017.