Shahid Marga work in limboUncertainty of the project has deprived the locals of crucial transportation services.
The construction work on the Rukum section of the Shahid Marga Highway connecting Rolpa and Dang districts with East Rukum has been left in limbo.
According to Shahid Marga Project Office in Libang, Rolpa, work has come to a standstill since the termination of the previous contract in December 2022.
The 220km highway spans from Ghorahi in Dang district to Maikot in East Rukum, connecting three districts—Rukum East, Rolpa and Dang. Out of the 220 km, 74 km falls in Rukum East. Work on opening a 74 km passage from Dharmasala, Bhume Rural Municipality in Rolpa, to Hukam, Putha Uttarganga Rural Municipality in East Rukum, has been completed. “But work on 12 km of the road is yet to be completed,” said Pawan Bhattarai, head of the road project.
According to Bhattarai, the gravelling work on the Dharmasala-Mahat section has been completed. Even though the 6 km Mahat-Dumai section was also gravelled in the fiscal year 2017-18, the road suffered severe damage caused by a landslide in 2018. The road stretch since then has not been in use. “But we plan to open the road stretch soon after repairs. In the meantime, work on some sections of this project and the 38 km track opening of Kakri-Hukam have been completed,” said Bhattarai.
The contract to upgrade and widen the Kakri-Hukam road section was given to Pappu-Koshi and Neupane JV in the fiscal year 2016-17, but the company failed to complete the work despite extending the deadline four times. The last deadline for the 38 km road ended in mid-October 2022. “The contract with the company was terminated for their failure to complete the project despite multiple deadline extensions,” said Bhattarai. “We received Rs95.5 million back from the company. They have been instructed to pay back the remaining Rs530 million to the project. But the remaining money is yet to be returned.”
The project is now working on the detailed project report and environmental impact assessment. The construction work is only expected to start two years from now by a new contractor company.
According to Puniraj Gharti, chairman of Putha Uttarganga Rural Municipality, this project under the federal government did not go as planned due to the negligence of the contract company.
The uncertainty of the project has deprived the locals of crucial transportation facilities, says Bharat Pun, a local of Maikot. “The project office estimates that the contract for opening the track in the Hukam-Maikot section is likely to start after two years,” Pun said. “During the construction of the road in this section, the old narrow dirt road was excavated in order to construct a wider road, but since there is no progress even after so many years, we have no access to motorable roads.”
According to Bhattarai, the construction of three bridges also come under the project. So far, only the construction of one bridge is complete. The contract for two bridges over the Uttarganga and Ghattekhola rivers has been signed and the construction is expected to start in mid-September.
“The construction of the Shahid Marga Highway, which was developed by the government as a part of the national road project to connect small roads to wider road networks failed to see completion,” said Gharti. “The project is in limbo and this has made life difficult for the locals. Without the construction of this road, folks in East Rukum will not be able to connect to the Mid-Hill Highway and other link roads. All levels of government must prioritise this project for the benefit of the locals and the entire region.”