Roads office warns Chinese contractor over work delay, threatens to terminate contractDepartment of Roads accuses China State Construction Engineering Corporation Limited of neglecting maintenance of pothole-riddled Narayanghat-Butwal road.
With people having to travel long distances in masses for the Dashain festival, the multitude of potholes on the Narayanghat-Butwal road make their journey dangerous and uncomfortable.
At the heart of the problem is a Chinese contractor—China State Construction Engineering Corporation Limited—which was awarded a contract for widening the existing two-lane road to six lanes, according to the Department of Roads.
“With the Chinese contractor not carrying out repair and maintenance work on time in line with the contract, the road is full of potholes which will not only delay the travel but may lead to road accidents,” Ramesh Kumar Disti, chief of the Narayanghat-Butwal Road Project (Eastern Sector) told the Post. “It now takes five to six hours to travel from Narayanghat to Butwal from just two and a half hours earlier.”
The project is being undertaken under two packages— Daunne-Gaindakot section in the east and Daunne-Butwal section in the west. Both the packages were awarded to the China State Construction Engineering Corporation Limited.
Former Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, when he was in power, had laid the foundation stone for upgrading of the road in early 2019 after the Chinese firm was awarded the contract in February of the same year.
In November 2019, the Chinese contractor had formally started the work in the field.
But the Covid-19 pandemic that began in late 2019, stalled the work.
“But even after the situation eased, the Chinese contractor is carrying out construction work at a snail’s pace which is not quick enough to complete the project on time,” said Disti.
The original deadline for completing the project has already expired, on August 7. The project office has decided to extend the deadline by another 386 days making allowance for the time lost due to the Covid pandemic.
“Even after extending the deadline, the contractor has not shown any urgency to expedite the work,” said Arjun Jung Thapa, director general at the Department of Roads. “The contractor’s negligence to repair and maintenance has created a lot of discomfort to the people travelling through this section of the East-West Highway.”
Given this context, Narayanghat-Butwal Road Project (Eastern Sector) and Narayanghat-Butwal Road Project (Western Sector) on Sunday warned the contractor that they would be forced to terminate the contract.
In a notice issued Sunday, project managers of the two packages of the road stated that the engineer (consultant) has provided a timeline to correct the failures by October 22 and a continued failure would force the employer (Roads Department) to initiate the process of contract termination.
“The contractor must convince us and the consultant that it is ready to accelerate work and take concrete steps to correct the inaction seen in the field,” said Thapa. “At least, it should accelerate the maintenance work ahead of the Dashain festival when people will be travelling in masses to their hometowns. Otherwise, we will terminate the contract.”
According to the notice, despite numerous instructions by engineers and the employer, the contractor has remained reluctant and negligent to the maintenance of the Narayanghat-Butwal road section. The road surface has deteriorated with potholes leading to public discomfort, dust nuisance, health hazard, and road accidents. “We have closely monitored your work progress since September 2021 until today and you have fallen far behind the target,” the notice states. “Furthermore, there are no substantial work activities at the site. Also there are no sound preparations to convince the engineers and the employer that the contractor will expedite the work and complete the project on time.”
According to Thapa, physical progress of the work is less than 20 percent, although the original deadline given to the contractor has already expired. “The subcontractors and suppliers have also complained about the Chinese contractor not making payment for their works and supplies respectively,” he said.
Road widening work along the 114km Butwal-Narayanghat section, one of the busiest roads along the East-West Highway, was initiated with Rs17 billion loan assistance from the Asian Development Bank.