Department of Roads plans to terminate Valley road improvement projectSome of the remaining major expansion works will likely be carried out by the division road office within this fiscal year, officials say.
The Department of Roads plans to scrap the Kathmandu Valley Road Improvement Project, which has been carrying out expansion of several roads in the Capital, with the works facing obstacles in most under-construction stretches.
Almost all road-widening projects in the Valley are currently on hold after the Supreme Court made it mandatory for the government to pay compensation before acquiring private land for the purpose.
The court on September 18, 2017 made it mandatory for the government to compensate landowners before acquiring land for expanding the 9km Nagdhunga-Kalanki road.
The decision’s implications were seen on other roads being expanded in the Valley, with people obstructing the expansion works demanding compensation. As the project can no longer carry out new expansion works, the department plans to terminate the project.
“Our target is to complete all works within mid-February and take the entire expansion works to a logical end,” said Guru Adhikari, chief of the project. “For this, the government needs to decide that improvement works are carried out in whatever space available in each road where there is local obstruction.”
Keshav Kumar Sharma, director general at the department, also confirmed that plans are afoot to close the project office by completing at least relatively bigger expansion works within this fiscal year.
“If some works remain incomplete, divisional road offices in Kathmandu Valley will handle them,” Sharma.
However, no formal decision has been taken on the matter till date.
Officials said another reason behind wrapping up the project is to reduce the administrative cost of the department.
The Kathmandu Valley Road Improvement Project started in 2007 with the aim of expanding two-lane roads to four lanes amid worsening traffic congestion.
The project got a boost after the Baburam Bhattarai-led government initiated a major road expansion drive in the Valley in 2011. According to the project, the deadline of all projects will expire by mid-January 2021. This project has an obligation to expand 112km-long road sections in the Valley.
“Expansion works have been completed on 72km of the total road sections,” said Adhikari. “I have the responsibility to complete the remaining part.”
Tripureshwor-Kalanki-Nagdhunga; Chabhil-Jorpati-Sankhu; Lagankhel-Satdobato; Imadol-Godavari-Lamatar; Dholahiti-Lele-Saraswotikunda; Karmanasha-Godavarikunda; Jorpati-Sundarijal; Nakhkhukhola-Bungmati; Chakrapath-Biddhatmarga; Pepsicola-Sallaghari; Dhobikhola Bridge; and Bagmatikhola and Bishnumati bridges are the undertakings of the project.
Of them, two sections of Chabahil-Sankhu road with a combined length of 3.4km have been completed while the 800m Lagankhel-Satdobato stretch has also been completed, according to the project. A 4km section of Dholahiti-Lele-Saraswotikunda has been widened and the 772m Chakrapath-Biddhatmarga section has also been completed.
Among the three bridges, Dhobikhola bridge at Bijulibazar and Bishnupati bridge at Budhanilkantha have also been completed. But the tender regarding Bagmati bridge was cancelled after the contractor—Pappu Construction—failed to work on the project, according to the Road Improvement Project. Physical progress in the remaining roads ranges between 15 percent and 90 percent.
“Given the short length of roads, almost all can be completed if the government decides to work on the available space,” another project official said.
Given the obstruction by local residents in road expansion in the Valley, it will be a Herculean task for the project to complete its task. As many as 16 cases were registered at the Supreme Court against the expansion project as the owners would lose land in the process. “Several other cases are also pending at the Patan High Court,” said Adhikari.
According to him, there is only one section of road where the project has not faced a court case, which is the 7km Imadol-Lubhu road. “But there is also obstruction by locals,” he said.
However, the project expects the Cabinet to decide to carry on the project in whatever space available with the government in no position to compensate for the land as per the Supreme Court verdict.
The Cabinet has already taken such decisions in cases of Chabahil-Sankhu; Jorpati-Sundarijal; Tripureshwor-Nagdhunga and Chapagaun-Lele stretches. “Similar decision is expected in other roads too to complete the unfinished business,” said Adhikari.