Bajhang folk fear disconnect from national road networkThe district was disconnected from the national road network for about a month in October last year as the floods and landslides severely damaged Jaya Prithvi Highway.
The suffering that ensued after the unseasonal floods in October last year in Bajhang, a remote district of Sudurpaschim Province, is fresh in the minds of the locals. The district was disconnected from the national road network for about a month as the floods and landslides severely damaged Jaya Prithvi Highway.
Bajhang residents are worried that the district might once again be cut off from the national road network as the reconstruction of the flood-damaged road in the Jalebagar area of Chhabis Pathibhera Rural Municipality is yet to be completed. Pre-monsoon activities and snowmelt are gradually increasing the water level in the Seti river, threatening to wash away the temporary road constructed along the Jalebagar-Tamail road section.
“If the damaged road section is not repaired within a month, Bajhang will once again be disconnected from the national road network. Water level in the Seti river is gradually increasing, which may disrupt the construction work as well. Bajhang may face a bigger problem than it had in October last year,” said Hari Shankar Joshi, an engineer working on the road project.
Vehicular movement may be disrupted for five to six months in the district if immediate measures are not taken, he said.
Floods and landslides battered Bajhang from October 17 to 20 last year, killing more than two dozen people and destroying properties and infrastructure worth millions of rupees. The flooded Seti river had swept away a 400 metre road in Jalebagar along the Jaya Prithvi Highway. Transportation had come to a complete halt in Jayaprithvi Municipality and Surma, Talkot, Masta, Saipal, Khaptadchhanna and Chhabis Pathibhera rural municipalities for a month.
Transportation resumed only after a temporary road was constructed by diverting the flow of the Seti river. According to the District Administration Office, three patients, including a child, died as they could not be taken to hospitals outside the district due to transportation disruption. Prices of essential goods like food materials, medicines, and cooking gas, among others, skyrocketed in the district.
The locals have been witnessing the water level in the Seti river gradually rise as snow has begun melting with the rise in temperature.
“The reconstruction of the road is not picking up pace while the water level in the river is increasing by the day. The river will wash away the temporary road soon. It seems that the district will be cut off from the road network once again,” said Narendra Khadka of Jayaprithvi-3. “I bought a cooking cylinder worth Rs 1,700 for Rs 6,000 last year when transportation was disrupted. I can’t afford to do the same this year.”
Dragon-Jagadamba-Surmasarobar JV was awarded the contract to reconstruct the road along the flood-damaged Jalebagar area at the cost of Rs 55 million. The deadline for the work was set for mid-May but works along a 20-metre road section are yet to start.
According to technicians, the presence of hard rock along the road has hindered the progress of the reconstruction work. The only way to remove the hard rock from the path is by using explosives. However, the chief district officer and the contractor blame the Defence Ministry for delaying the supply of the required explosives.
“We are making efforts to complete the work on time. Other works like building retaining walls and filling gabion walls among others are going on as per the contract agreement. But we are unable to build a road through the hard rock due to the lack of explosives,” said Sher Bahadur Bohara, a representative of the construction company. “We registered an application at the District Administration Office and the Road Division Office in February, urging them to take initiatives to provide us with explosives. But they have not taken any concrete initiatives as of now.”
According to Bohara, the construction company attempted to cut the hard rock by using an excavator but did not succeed. He complained that the contractor even urged the District Administration Office to provide them with the explosives that the Chainpur-Taklakot road project has in stock in the district. “But the Office did not take initiatives in this regard either,” said Bohara.
However, Chief District Officer Baburam Aryal has a different claim. He blamed the contractor company for its indifference to completing the road construction on time.
“The District Administration Office had asked the Defence Ministry to provide the needed explosives a month ago after the Chainpur-Taklakot road project refused to share the explosives in its stock. I assured the contractors that I would support them in bringing the explosives but they are indifferent to bringing the explosives immediately and open the track through the hard rock,” said Aryal.