Butwal-Narayanghat road nowhere near completeThe deadline for the road expansion project is two months away but only about 17 percent of the work has been completed so far.
As per the project agreement, road widening work of the Butwal-Narayanghat section of the East-West Highway should be completed by August 8 this year. However, the road work is nowhere near completion.
According to the Butwal-Narayanghat Road Expansion project office, only around 17 percent of the road widening work has been completed as of mid-May.
“The road expansion work is going on at a snail’s pace. The project deadline is two months away but only about 17 percent of the work has been completed. At this rate, it will take more than nine years for the project to complete,” said Ramesh Kumar Disti, the eastern section chief of the Butwal-Narayanghat road project.
The Department of Roads signed an agreement with China State Construction Engineering Corporation to implement the road project in February 2019. As per the plan, the existing two-lane road has to be widened to six lanes within four years. The project office had divided the Butwal-Narayanghat road into two sections—48km Daunne-Gaidakot section in the east and 66-km Daunne-Butwal section in the west.
Road widening work along the 114km Butwal-Narayanghat section, one of the busiest road stretches along the East-West Highway, was initiated with Rs 17 billion loan assistance from the Asian Development Bank.
According to the road project, work has been delayed mainly due to the issue of felling trees along the road, shifting electricity poles from the roadside and due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Forty-four kilometres of the 114km long Butwal-Narayanghat road section pass through forests.
“Forty-four kilometres of the 114km long Butwal-Narayanghat road section pass through forest areas so several trees along the road have to be cut for the road widening project. This has caused some delays,” said an engineer of the road project preferring anonymity. “Work has also been disrupted in some places due to the issue of shifting utility poles.”
He said that the project cost would increase due to the delay in project completion.
The China State Construction Engineering Corporation recently wrote an application to the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport urging them to extend the project deadline by two years.
Rakesh Jha, an engineer of the Chinese construction company, admitted the project delay. He said that the Covid-19 pandemic, issues of tree felling on the roadside and shifting of electricity poles are the leading causes behind the project delay.
“We have focused on bridge construction rather than road widening works,” said Jha. “Especially with the onset of monsoon, we are unable to continue road leveling works as the rainwater sweeps away the soil.”
A total of 222 bridges have to be constructed along the 114 km long Butwal-Narayanghat road. However, only 115 bridges have been constructed so far.
The delay in the expansion work of the Butwal-Narayanghat road has put it in a sorry state. The road is full of potholes, making the busy stretch of the East-West Highway prone to accidents. The road project has also diverted the roads in various places for the construction of bridges and expansion works, causing hours-long traffic jams.
“The road is full of potholes. Travelling along the road, mainly in the rainy season, is risky here,” said Remesh Khanal, a truck driver who often uses the road section. He complained that the travel time has more than doubled since the road expansion project began. “The road would be safer and easier to use if those potholes were buried and the road was levelled.”
The local people blame both the government and the contractor for the poor condition of the existing road and the delay in the road widening project.
“There are big potholes along the diversion road. The drivers cannot see them well during the night, which often leads to accidents. Neither the government authorities nor the contractor are concerned with burying such potholes along the road,” said Ramchandra Sapkota, a resident of Gaindakot.
Meanwhile, Suman Ghimire, the chief district officer of Nawalparasi (East), claims that he has repeatedly instructed the Chinese company and the Department of Roads to bury the potholes and improve the road condition but to no avail.