Siddhartha Highway in dilapidated stateThe road is always covered in billowing clouds of dust after the drinking water pipes were installed using excavators.
Travelling along the Dobhan-Chidiyakhola section of the Siddhartha Highway has been made difficult due to the poor road condition.
Visibility along the 5km road section is low due to dust clouds kicked up by passing vehicles. There are also several potholes and slippages along the section, making travel difficult for drivers and pedestrians alike.
“We have been travelling along the dusty road for months,” said Yadav Neupane, a motorcycle rider from Kaligandaki Rural Municipality in Gulmi.
Local residents say the road condition deteriorated further after the Butwal Drinking Water Project dug a roadside canal and installed pipes using excavators.
“Three to four excavators are being used to dig the road section. This has caused traffic congestion along the dusty road,” said Neupane.
According to the agreement of the Butwal Drinking Water Project and the Division Road Office in Palpa, pipelines should be installed without disrupting the roadside canals.
“Two-way traffic movement has been blocked after the project contractor violated the agreement and installed pipelines along the canal,” said Mukunda Adhikari, division road officer in Palpa.
Shyam Rana, a driver who regularly travels along the Butwal-Tansen road, said that the two-hour drive from Butwal to Tansen now takes at least five hours.
According to the data of the District Traffic Office in Palpa, more than 1,000 trucks carrying limestones pass the road on a daily basis.
“Various road sections have caved in due to last year’s landslides. Two-way traffic flow has been blocked in these areas,” said Krishna Khanal, a bus driver.
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 last year’s monsoon.
In August last year, the Division Road Office had awarded the contract to Prakriti-Dhulikhel JV for the repair of the road section between Dovan to Chidiyakhola.
“But the contractor has not started any work yet. We have been requesting the contractor to start repair works soon,” Adhikari, the division road officer.
Every year, the Department of Roads allocates over Rs 50 million for Siddhartha Highway road repairs only. But the road section along the Siddhababa area regularly sustains damages due to huge boulders rolling down nearby cliffs during the monsoon season.
Siddhartha Highway is one of the shortest highways to connect Tarai with the hill districts. It covers 120 kilometres from Sunauli, the Indian border point, to Pokhara.
Over 5,000 vehicles from Sunauli, Butwal, Bhairahawa, Gulmi, Palpa, Syangja, Kaski, Arghakhanchi, Baglung, Parbat, Myagdi and Mustang use the highway on a daily basis, according to Som Bahadur Saru, chief at Dovan Police Post.
“Limestone-carrying trucks are major contributors to traffic congestion on the highway,” Saru said.
Another reason for the poor state of the road is the regular operation of heavy goods-carrying trucks, says Shibu Khatri, an engineer at the Division Road Office.
“In the past, lorries with more than six wheels were not allowed to run on the highway. But the Department of Roads has now allowed all types of vehicles to operate on the road. This is one of the reasons behind the dilapidated state of the road,” Khatri said.