Department of Roads gears up to initiate Butwal-Palpa tunnel projectThe planned 1.3-kilometre tunnel will have double lanes with a width of 8.5 metres and a sidewalk.
Three days ago, a 27-year-old engineer was killed in an accident along a narrow stretch of the Butwal-Palpa road.
The section where the mishap occurred is especially perilous due to the hairpin bends and unpredictable year-round rock slides.
The road section has claimed scores of lives over the last few years, said Supuspa Bhattarai, a local of Butwal.
According to Bhattarai, the government should prioritise building a tunnel on the dangerous Siddhababa-Dovan road section on the Siddhartha Highway, which is the main link between the plains and the hill districts of Palpa, Syangja and Pokhara. A dedicated lane must also be built for tippers to minimise accidents.
The Roads Department has geared up to do just that.
After initiating the construction of the much-touted Nagdhunga-Sisnekhola road section in October, department officials have now finalised a detailed project report of the Siddhababa Tunnel Project and are planning to invite bids for its construction.
“We have forwarded the details of the proposed project to survey officials who will initiate a tender process within two months,” said Arjun Jung Thapa, director general of the Department of Roads.
“It will be a rock-shed tunnel which will have structures as a safety measure for motorists and pedestrians, and will divert rock slides from the stretch to the river.”
According to Thapa, the project has been highly prioritised and will be the second major tunnel project after the recently inaugurated Nagdhunga Tunnel Project.
As per the project report prepared with assistance from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the 1.3-kilometre tunnel will have double lanes with a width of 8.5 metres and a sidewalk.
Initial estimates suggest that it will cost around Rs8 billion to build the proposed rock-shed tunnel.
The tunnel on Siddhartha Highway is among 12 such projects prioritised by the government in this fiscal’s budget. The Finance Ministry has allocated Rs590 million to execute studies for tunnel projects on the Surya Binayak-Dhulikhel and Thankot-Chitlang roads, among other places.
A detailed project report for the Siddhababa Tunnel Project is ready, and feasibility studies for other proposed tunnel projects are ongoing.
“The Siddhababa Tunnel Project will be domestically funded with a completion target of 36 months from the start of the construction contract,” said Thapa.
“The design and supervision will be carried out by the Swiss agency while Nepal government officials will oversee the construction.”
Records show that the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation has planned to inject 26 million Swiss francs into different road and bridge projects in Nepal as part of its bilateral, economic and development cooperation in 2019.
According to the Swiss agency, it has also disbursed 7 million francs for the motorable local road bridges programme which will contribute directly to improving the livelihoods of 1.2 million people by providing technical assistance in bridge building and facilitating improved access.
“About 22 percent of the rural population still has to walk more than 4 hours in the hills and 2 hours in the Tarai to reach an all-weather road network,” said the agency. “Bridges on local roads are critical for year-round access for the rural poor, creating economic and social development opportunities for them, and reducing the huge economic costs they incur for travel, trade, health and farm inputs."
Apart from the rock-shed tunnel, technical studies have also begun for proposed passages including a Tokha-Chahare tunnel on the road linking Kathmandu and Rasuwagadhi.
A Chinese technical team has initiated a month-long site survey, two months after Nepal and China signed a memorandum of understanding under which China will help build two stretches of the road section.
The first stretch of the road will be 32-km long—from Tokha in Kathmandu to Chhahare in Nuwakot—with a 4.17-kilometre tunnel. The second 19-kilometre stretch will link Mailung with Syabrubesi in Rasuwa district.