Rapti Highway turns into a death trap for travellersOfficials cite inadequate budget and poor maintenance. In the last fiscal year, 22 people died and 110 were injured in 84 accidents on the highway.
On Monday morning, a jeep carrying vegetables en route to Dang from Rolpa met with an accident at Chorkhola in ward 3 of the Rapti Highway in Kapurkot Rural Municipality in Salyan district. There were three people on board including the driver. The driver and one passenger died on the spot while the other passenger is receiving treatment at the Tulsipur-based Provincial Hospital.
The 135-km Rapti Highway, which connects Dang, Salyan and Rukum districts, came into operation some 36 years ago. The Dang-Salyan stretch is 91-km-long while the Salyan-Rukum stretch is 44 km. The Salyan stretch of the highway is prone to accidents, said police.
On August 22, a passenger bus on its way from Rukum to Tulsipur got into an accident in Kapurkot-3 of Salyan leaving 18 people injured. Two of the people died during the course of treatment at the province hospital.
Data at the District Police Office, Salyan shows that in the last fiscal year, 22 people died and 110 people were injured in 84 road accidents on the highway, which connects the three districts of the Lumbini and Karnali provinces.
According to Deputy Superintendent of Police Nabin Karki of the District Police Office, Salyan, nearly 100 people were injured in separate accidents on the Salyan stretch of the highway.
“There have been many accidents where passengers survived with minor injuries, according to the locals. These cases have not been registered with the police. Several accidents go unrecorded because the survivors don’t contact the police,” said Karki. “The Highway is becoming a death trap for vehicles leading to loss of lives. Most accidents occur because of the poor road condition, negligence of drivers and traffic rule violation. In the last five years, on average at least 40 accidents have occurred on the highway every year.”
According to Krishnaraj Pant, in-charge of the Sitparti-based Traffic Office located in Sharada Rural Municipality which patrols the highway in the Salyan stretch, despite several awareness programmes and steps, accidents have not reduced on the highway. The festivals are always marred by road accidents in Salyan, he said.
“We are working hard to prevent further accidents. Road traffic is significantly high during the festive season and so are accidents. Most of the Salyan section of the highway is in hilly areas, where landslides and unseasonal floods also cause several accidents. During the festival season, public vehicles drive over the speed limit to save time and do more trips. This is one of the main reasons for the increase in road accidents during the festive season,” said Pant. “The road is in a very bad condition due to a lack of maintenance, so they must drive carefully and follow traffic rules to prevent accidents.”
According to Durga Bahadur Pun, chairman of Kapurkot Rural Municipality, the condition of Kapurkot section of the road is in a poor state. The road is in need of repairs, blacktopping and maintenance, he said.
“There are no safety railings in the Kapurkot section. Vehicles lose control and swerve off cliffs. Around 10 to 15 people die in accidents every year on this road section alone. The festival season is coming, and we are worried about the condition of the road. We have requested the authorities concerned, including the road division to put up safety barriers along the road,” said Durga Bahadur. “The Rapti Highway is repaired every year by spending millions of rupees, but the road is never safe and risk-free due to shoddy work.”
Dal Bahadur Mahatara, a resident of Kapurkot-3, goes to visit his relatives every year during the festival season, but his journey is not restful.
“Every time I board a bus, I keep looking out the window. I can’t rest easy,” said Mahatara. “I was happy when the road came into operation, but over the years this road has killed so many people,” said Mahatara. “I can’t feel safe travelling on this road.”
Arbindra Kumar Rai, president of the Salyan-Rukum Bus Committee, says that the common factor in vehicles involved in accidents is their poor condition. “The police only check the paperwork and do not examine whether the vehicles are road-worthy. The Department of Transport Management should ban old vehicles from carrying passengers,” said Rai.
Ujjwal Jha, an engineer at the Road Division Office, Salyan responsible for the maintenance of the Salyan Section of the Rapti Highway, said that the budgets allocated to the three road divisions in three districts for road maintenance are insufficient. “The budget is limited and the contractors are dishonest. The road is always in a bad condition even after renovation. The office has not installed any railings on the highway due to a limited budget,” said Jha. “This year, the government has allocated Rs600 million for the renovation of the highway, and the process of selecting contractors is going on. Hopefully, this year the renovation work will be properly done.”