Preparatory work for Rs7.34 billion Siddhababa tunnel project beginsAround 421 travellers have lost their lives so far in the road section over the last 10 years, which is a landslide and rockfall-prone area.
The preparatory works of the Rs7.34 billion Siddhababa tunnel project have started, although its design is yet to be approved.
The 1.12-kilometre tunnel project lies along the Butwal-Palpa road section on the Siddhartha Highway, which is a landslide-prone and stoneslide-prone area.
Around 421 travellers have lost their lives and many others have sustained injuries in several accidents in the road segment over the last 10 years, according to the District Traffic Office, Palpa.
More than 10,000 vehicles ply on the road section every day.
The China State Construction Engineering Corporation signed the contract in March last year to complete the project. The project completion deadline is five years.
The project is being constructed under the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) model, according to senior divisional engineer, Dip Barahi of the Department of Roads.
Under an EPC contract, a single contractor takes responsibility for all components like design, engineering, construction and procurement.
The contract binds the contractor to deliver the project by the stipulated time frame and at the predetermined price, regardless of any possible cost overruns.
Barahi said that the project has moved forward, despite the non-approval of the design, after an agreement between the Department of Roads and the Swiss consultant to approve the design, in phases.
As per the contract, the Chinese developer had to submit the design within nine months.
“The contractor has submitted the design to us, which is under review,” said Barahi. “The contractor has also begun the preparatory work at the northern end of the tunnel after its design has been given a green signal by the Swiss consultant and the Department of Roads.”
“The contractor has received Rs580 million in advance to begin the work,” Barahi added.
He said the preparatory works include making a portal and slope stabilisation. “It will take some time to begin the construction of the tunnel,” said Barahi. “The contractor has requested approval to get explosives in order to make the tunnel. We have yet to give such an approval.”
Barahi said they have set a target to completely finish the design approval in a month and a half. “Our strategy to approve the design in a phase-wise manner is to prevent any delay in the construction.”
The Nepal government will oversee the construction of the project.
The project is also in the process of hiring a dedicated consultant.
“We have completed a technical evaluation for the hiring of a consultant,” said Barahi. “It might take another two months.”
As per the Detailed Project Report prepared with assistance of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the 1.12-kilometre tunnel will have double lanes with a width of 8.5 metres along with sidewalks.
The Siddhababa-Dovan road section is the main link between more than a dozen districts in the plains and the hills such as Palpa, Gulmi, Arghakhanchi, Syangja, Kaski, Parbat and Baglung.
While the project’s office has been established at Naya Gaau in Rupandehi district, the construction company has set up the site camp in Dobhan in Tinau rural municipality-2.
The tunnel starts from Ramapithecus Park on the northern side and ends near Siddha Baba Temple in the south.
The section, from Dobhan Bazaar to Lower Siddhababa at Tinau Rural Municipality-3, is perilous due to the hairpin bends and unpredictable round-the-year rock slides.
The road sections–Chidiya Khola to Upper Siddhi Baba Temple and Ramapithecus Park to Dobhan–will also be upgraded.
Around 500 metres-long rock shed, for diverting rock slides from the stretch to the river as a safety measure for motorists and pedestrians, will also be made along the highway, according to Barahi.