Road widening work along Muglin-Malekhu section of Prithvi Highway moving at snail’s paceOnly six percent of the road project has been completed in the one year since it began. Around 8,000 vehicles ply the road daily.
The road widening and upgradation work along the Muglin-Malekhu section of Prithvi Highway, one of the country’s busiest roads, is currently underway but at a snail’s pace.
The Muglin-Nagdhunga Road Project started the road widening work by dividing the 94 km long stretch into three sections. The work has made little progress along the 39 km-long Muglin-Malekhu stretch.
“The Department of Roads signed a project agreement with a construction company on December 30, 2022, at an approximate cost of Rs4.4 billion. As per the deal, the road widening and upgradation works should be completed within three years. Nearly a year has passed but only around six percent of the work has been completed so far along the Muglin-Malekhu section,” said engineer Krishna Acharya, information officer for the Muglin-Malekhu stretch of Muglin-Nagdhunga Road.
Prithvi Highway links two major cities—Kathmandu and Pokhara. It was built with Chinese assistance and was completed in 1974. One of the busiest highways in the country, it faces frequent traffic jams. The highway traffic is expected to ease once the road widening is over.
The highway, particularly from Muglin to Kathmandu, serves as the main gateway to Kathmandu for vehicles coming from eastern, western and southern parts of the country. Around 8,000 vehicles ply the road daily, according to the road department.
Local residents and stakeholders are concerned over delayed works. “It is a busy highway. Hundreds of passenger buses, goods carriers and ambulances run on the road. The construction work should be completed soon to ease transportation,” said Kalyan Gubhaju, a Muglin-based businessman who chairs the Ichchhakamana Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“The construction company has not been working on major stretches of the road section. Travel along the Muglin-Kathmandu road has been quite difficult now due to traffic jams and dust,” said Gubhaju. He said business activities in the area have been adversely affected due to the delays in road widening work. “I hope the Muglin-Malekhu stretch will not meet the same fate as Butwal-Narayanghat. The project deadline for the Butwal-Narayanghat highway has been extended several times.”
The local people have been raising concerns about the timely completion of the project. “The widening works are not going at a good speed. There will be various problems and difficulties in case the road project is delayed,” said Nar Bahadur Nepal, ward chairman of Ichchhakamana-3. “We have been receiving several complaints from the locals. The local unit has been monitoring the work progress though the road project is under the federal government. We continuously urge the authorities concerned to carry out construction work well so that it will be completed on time.”
Engineer Acharya argued that road widening work has been delayed due to major Hindu festivals and the rainy season. “The road widening work will be intensified soon after Chhath with an additional number of workers and equipment,” he said, adding that progress is good in the eastern section from Malekhu onwards.
The Muglin-Nagdhunga project plans to build three lanes in a steep section of the road and six lanes in town areas. A separate lane will be for use by goods carriers in steep sections. Around six kilometres of road will be made of three lanes in different places. Around five kilometres of the road will be six to seven lanes while the rest remains of two lanes.
“But the road will be of high quality and bear the pressure of increasing traffic,” said Acharya.
Kathmandu, the national capital, does not have a reliable alternative to Prithvi Highway as the main supply line. Some road projects including Kathmandu-Nijgadh Expressway, Kanti Rajpath connecting Kathmandu to Hetuada, and Kathmandu-Hetauda Tunnel Road have been planned as alternative routes but the progress of these projects has been slow.