BP Highway comes as a boon for Sindhuli folksUntil recently, Ratanchura VDC in the district was a secluded village comprising of 69 households, most of them belonging to Dalits who depended on subsistence farming for their livelihoods.
Local resident Sabitra Thapa, who earned around Rs 35,000 last year from vegetable farming, said, “This is the first time that I was able to generate this much money from vegetable farming in my field.” While earlier she harvested corn and millet in her land, but which was barely enough for self-consumption, now large amount of chillies, tomatoes and other vegetables she produces in her farm reach the nearby markets by bus where they are sold at good prices.
The 160 km-long BP Highway passes through the Mahabharat Range in Sindhuli while connecting Dhulikhel in Kavrepalanchowk district to Bardibas in Mahottari. Also known as the Sindhuli Road, the highway has become the third major highway after the Prithvi Highway and Araniko Highway linking the Kathmandu Valley to other parts of the country. It has significantly reduced travel time to and from the eastern districts of Nepal.
Funded by the Japanese government, the BP Highway took 20 years to complete with total project cost amounting to Rs 21.28 billion. With the final section of the road completed on March 1, this year, thousands of people residing along the highway are starting to realise socio-economic benefits this project has delivered.
Towns and markets are sprawling all along the road with shops, hotels and houses being built in an unprecedented rate. Gyan Bahadur Yonjan of Kusheshwor Dumja VDC has been able to support his family of nine by selling his farm produce in the local market. The area in the VDC adjacent to the road has developed as a market centre enabling people like Yonjan to reap the benefits.
“Earlier we had to walk for days on end to buy even daily essentials. Earning money by selling livestock, milk or vegetables was something we couldn’t even imagine back then,” Yonjan said.
Junar farmers in the district are also cherishing the immense possibilities the highway has opened for them. Around 3,185 households from 42 VDCs have been engaging in organised commercial farming of Junar fruit, producing up to 12,000 metric tons of Junar each year in the district alone. Kathmandu and major cities in Tarai such as Janakpur, Birgunj, Biratnagar and Narayanghat have become ready markets for Junar due to the road linkage.
The BP Highway has also come as a boon to dairy farmers in Bhakundebesi in Kavrepalanchok district. A milk chilling centre has been established here with Japanese assistance along with 40 milk collection centres. While in the past farmers needed to hire porters to transport milk to Panauti or Banepa, now with the easy road access dairy farms as far as Kathmandu have started collecting milk from the surrounding villages, providing farmers with stable source of income. Although traffic movement has already caught pace, the BP Highway is formally being handed over to the Nepali government only in May this year.