Monsoon-battered Siddhartha Highway causes hours long jamRoad office says it does not have the funds to repair the highway this year.
The number of people travelling to Gulmi, Baglung, Syangja, Kaski and Mustang from Kathmandu and various parts of the country via Siddhartha Highway for the festival season has increased in recent days.
But their journey has become a difficult one due to traffic jams. The lack of proper road maintenance for the past several years and this year’s landslides have made travelling a frustrating experience.
Major sections of the highway experienced multiple landslides during this year’s rainy season and the authorities are yet to completely clear the debris, which has been causing traffic bottlenecks, sometimes for hours.
The highway condition is particularly rough where it passes through Palpa district.
Tilak Neupane, who reached Pokhara from Rupandehi last week, complained of being stuck in a six-hour-long traffic jam along the highway. “There are huge mounds of landslide debris by the highway side and in some places landslides have washed away parts of the highway. Travelling on the highway was a nightmare,” he said.
According to the Division Road Office in Palpa, road sections at Kadambas, Siddhababa, Damsite, Paithedanda, Bhutkhola, Jhumsa, Panimil and Chaubismile, among other areas, were damaged during this year’s monsoon.
Two-way traffic has been blocked in many of these areas.
Officials at the road office said the damaged highway sections will not be repaired this year since they do not have funds.
“We still have to clear landslide debris and we have limited funds,” said Mukundaraj Adhikari, chief at the rad office.
The road office does not expect that the Department of Roads will be issuing funds for the highway repair works anytime soon.
“It takes at least six hours to go to Tansen from Butwal these days. Earlier the distance could be covered in almost 45 minutes,” said Sumit Kunwar, a jeep driver.
According to the road office, at least 50 to 80 metres of the highway has caved in at several places. “Two-way traffic flow is impossible on these highway sections,” said Janga Bahadur Sunar, supervisor of the road office. “More than 50 metres of the highway in Tinau area has also been swept away by torrential downpour.”
The Bhutkhola and Siddhababa sections of the highway had suffered heavy damages during last year’s monsoon too, but the repair works have still not been initiated.
“We always face trouble while travelling through Siddhababa section of the highway in Palpa. Last year’s damaged roads have still not been repaired and the area is still prone to landslides,” said Shiva Nepali, a local man of Ribdikot in Palpa.
Shiva Sherchan, a bus driver, says he spends four to six hours everyday in traffic jams on the highway. “There are no alternate routes, so we are forced to drive through this dangerous section of the highway,” he said.
Traffic jams have worsened due to the frequent movement of trucks carrying limestones, Prithvi Narayan Kafle, chief at the District Traffic Office, said.
“Travellers are facing more traffic jams now, as the movement of trucks carrying limestones on the highway has become more frequent since mid-September. On top of that the highway is already in a dilapidated state,” said Kafle.
According to the data of the District Traffic Office in Palpa, more than 800 trucks carrying limestones ply the road daily. “These trucks have been contributing to the traffic congestion on the highway. The situation is not going to improve unless the two-way traffic movement on the highway is opened,” said Kunwar.