Prolonged delay in road widening work worsens dust pollution, traffic jamsAccording to officials at the Butwal-Narayanghat Road Project, only around 35 percent of the work has been completed even after repeated deadline extensions.
The widening work of the Butwal-Narayanghat section of the East-West Highway has been moving at a snail’s pace. The road expansion project was initiated around four years ago with a plan to complete the work in three years.
According to officials at the Butwal-Narayanghat Road Project, only around 35 percent of work has been completed so far.
“Around 15 km section of the 114 km Narayanghat-Butwal has been blacktopped as of now. The blacktopped section is 7 to 10.5 metres wide,” said Rakesh Jha, a consultant engineer at China State Construction Engineering Corporation.
In February 2019, the Department of Roads had signed an agreement with China State Construction Engineering Corporation to implement the road project. As per the project agreement, the existing two-lane road has to be widened to six lanes in market areas, four lanes in forest areas and three lanes in the Daunne hill areas. The contractor had divided the Narayanghat-Butwal road into two sections—48 km Daunne-Gaindakot section and 66 km Daunne-Butwal section.
The road widening work along the Butwal-Narayanghat stretch, one of the busiest sections along the East-West Highway, was initiated with Rs17 billion loan assistance from the Asian Development Bank.
The project deadline, which was extended for a second time, expires on September 8 this year. It is almost certain that the project will miss the deadline, according to officials. They said that the Chinese construction company has started lobbying for a third extension of the project deadline.
Engineer Jha admits that delay in the project has inconvenienced the public. According to him, the construction company wants to extend the deadline by a year and a half.
The delayed expansion work has disrupted vehicular movement along the busy road stretch. The road project has diverted vehicular traffic at various places for the construction of bridges and road-widening work, causing hours-long traffic jams. With numerous potholes along the road caused mainly due to the road widening work, the Butwal-Narayanghat section has become accident prone.
Nine big bridges and 21 smaller ones have to be constructed along the Daunne-Butwal stretch while 44 bridges, including 12 major ones, need to be constructed along the Daunne-Gaindakot section. Work on most of the bridges has yet to be completed.
“Construction of all minor bridges will be completed by the end of the current fiscal year that ends on July 16,” Jha claimed.
Settlements along the roadside are covered in thick layers of dust due to the widening work. The local residents complained that people living along and near the highway are hugely affected by the dust along the Butwal-Narayanghat road section. Educational institutions, businesses and other community offices also complained of the dust pollution.
“We have been suffering from dust since the road widening work began some three years ago,” said Lila Ballav Bhattarai, a resident of Kawasoti. “The locals are exposed to various diseases due to dust. We don’t know how long we will have to suffer this way.”