Power poles and land dispute delay Ring Road widening workThe Chinese contractor has said it cannot start work on Kalanki-Maharajgunj section until the electricity poles are removed. The work is already delayed by a year.
The second phase of Ring Road widening work involving the 8.2 km Kalanki-Maharajgunj section is still in limbo as the high-voltage power lines in the Samakhusi area have yet to be shifted.
The Department of Roads blames the Nepal Electricity Authority for the delay.
Meanwhile, the Nepal Electricity Authority has said that it will finish moving the electricity poles in a week. It, however, said that moving the power lines along the Swayambhu-Halchowk section will take some time.
“Three months ago, representatives of the Chinese contractor overseeing the road widening project had visited the site and said they cannot start their work until the electricity poles are removed,” said Arjun Suwal, chief of the Kathmandu Ring Road Improvement Project.
Suwal said the Chinese construction company on May 31 had written to the project, which is under the Department of Roads, expressing its inability to start work until the electricity poles are removed.
“We have repeatedly asked the Nepal Electricity Authority to move the high voltage power lines in the Samakhusi area, but they told us that they don’t have high tension insulation cable for replacement to shift the power lines immediately,” said Arjun Jung Thapa, director general at the Department of Roads.
In December 2019, the roads department had said the road widening work would start from early 2020, but even a year later, there is no indication of the work starting anytime soon.
When the Post contacted Hitendra Dev Shakya, managing director of the Nepal Electricity Authority, to inquire about the issue, he said the work at Samakhusi was delayed due to a shortage of ABC [insulated] cable, which is used to replace bare conductor cables in overhead distribution systems.
“Finally, we have been able to import the cable so the poles at Samakhusi will be shifted within a week,” said Shakya.
He, however, said it will take time to shift the high voltage transmission line along the Swayambhu-Halchowk section.
“I think that will not create any problem for the road widening work,” said Shakya.
The Chinese contractor company, Shanghai Construction, took five years to complete the road widening work on the 10.5 km Kalanki-Koteshwor section, the first section of the Chinese-funded project that began in June 2013. It was completed at the cost of
Rs5.13 billion and handed over to the Nepal government in January 2019.
“The Chinese construction company won’t start the work until the power lines are shifted because it had faced obstructions and delays due to the unmanaged electricity poles and drinking water pipelines in the Balkhu-Kalanki section in the first phase of the road widening drive,” said Thapa, the director general of the Department of Roads.
On October 11 last year, the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure had issued a directive to the authorities concerned to start the road clearance work. But the work could not progress after the local residents in the Swayambhu and Maharajgunj areas opposed the road widening plan.
“The problem at Swayambhu has been solved by the Kathmandu Metropolitan City, but the residents of Maharajgunj are still opposed to the project. The District Administration Office, Kathmandu is working to resolve the problem,” said Thapa.
The authorities have yet to acquire 16 ropani [0.81 hectare] of private land for the road widening work in the Maharajgunj area. The local residents have refused to sell their land and some have even filed a writ petition at the Supreme Court against the road expansion drive.
“We have formed a separate committee to examine who are the actual house owners needing land compensation. The committee's work was delayed due to the Covid-19 prohibitory orders,” said Kali Prasad Parajuli, the chief district officer in Kathmandu.
Suwal, the chief of the Ring Road Improvement Project, said 99 percent of the road clearance work has been completed. “We have already informed the Chinese contractor to start the widening work but have not heard from them,” said Suwal.
He said the widening work has been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Once the situation becomes normal, the work will resume. We will contact the contractor once the Nepal Electricity Authority clears electricity poles from the road,” he added.