Jan 312017
 

Was the budget shifted to some other district? The incomplete bridge at Kamala river, Sindhuli.

It’s just another example of local infrastructure projects that are left half completed for years, sometimes forever. We once witnessed a similar case in Chitwan where the government was said to have funded a dike project along a river to protect villagers from the annual floods. On inspection to the remote river bank, however, all we found was a bit of rock and iron in the water! In this more recent case, it’s a bridge across Kamala river in Sindhuli that’s still incomplete.

The pillars were erected four years ago and the bridge project was off to a good start. But then nothing happened. Was the budget shifted to some other district or project after another party came to power; was it misused, perhaps even siphoned off by politicians, bureaucrats and contractors involved; or was the money simply not enough to complete the project in the first place? We don’t know. But those are typical questions, and locals along Kamala river are still waiting for an answer.

Feb 032016
 

A worn billboard until now, long-projected Pokhara International Airport might soon be under construction

A worn billboard until now, long-projected Pokhara International Airport might soon be under construction

While reconstruction after the earthquake has barely started, Pokhara International Airport – 40 years in waiting – now appears close to take-off! In fact, two years ago chances still looked slim. But now the USD 215 million project is just a signature-on-a-loan-document away from driving in the dozers. So, who’s providing the loan? Well, not surprisingly, perhaps, China – as opposed to India. Indeed, the southern neighbor has instead been suspected of putting pressure on the government till now to stall the project! Continue reading »

Dec 132015
 

It takes dozens of hands plus a good amount of skill and experience to bring a typical electricity pole in a village to an upright position

How long time does it take to erect electricity poles in a village? Well, it depends in great part on whether the electricity department provides machinery and/or manpower. If they don’t, as is most often the case, it can take days, even weeks to connect a village. The electricity poles come in concrete or steel and are in either case extremely heavy – it typically takes dozens of hands plus a good amount of skill and experience to bring the poles up and standing. So, how is it done? Well, it varies – but watch this video (left) to see how villagers in Pahari village, Kavre, erected altogether three heavy electricity poles last September.

Jun 132015
 

Mid-hill Highway and the north-south corridor roads

Mid-hill Highway and the north-south corridor roads (in light red)

The Mid-hill Highway is flanked by a series of roads that lead north and south, known as the North-south Corridors. These “corridor roads” came on the drawing board several decades ago as a major key to economic growth and development in the Mid-hills. Construction work began in the 1990s, and by the mid-2000s several roads were opened. With the recent completion of the Surkhet-Jumla corridor, there now is a whole network of north-south corridors! Do they help the local economy: it appears so! Continue reading »

Jun 132015
 

Textbook distribution: a chain of commission

Government is supposed to pay compensation to landowners

It’s not all rosy when the dozers plough through the land of the locals. Indeed, the value of the property may go up once the road opens. But in the meantime, the only way to avoid loss is by way of receiving government compensation. To be sure, the government usually pledges a formally calculated compensation – ropani by ropani – to affected land owners. However, this promise is not always kept. In one example from the Mid-hill Highway construction, several hundred locals – even ones displaced by the road – were left without any compensation at all! The funds were allocated, but nobody saw it on the receiving end. The local reaction? Protest and agitation, stalling construction work for weeks! Continue reading »

Jun 132015
 

Over steep hills and across deep valleys: Mid-hill Highway

Over steep hills and across deep valleys: Mid-hill Highway

It can seem almost impossible considering the terrain of steep hills and deep valleys, but it’s nonetheless a fact. The Mid-hill Highway – going from East to West across the interior of the country – is getting nearer completion! The Mid-hill Highway is now bending its way from Chiyabhanjyang of Panchathar in the East to Jhulaghat of Baitadi in the Far-west – a distance of 1776 km. – through a total of 24 districts and 225 VDCs, directly affecting 7 million people! How near completion is it? Well, it remains a bit unclear, but large sections are already in use! Continue reading »

Jun 132015
 

On public contract: road construction

Road construction on the way to Jomsom

Kunda Dixit from Nepali Times went up to Jomsom and Lo Montang to examine the new road and its effects on the local community. What he found? Well, both winners and losers. Indeed, the mule drivers were not all that happy for the road which was quickly undermining their business! Truck drivers, on the other hand, were content. After all, trucks are quicker and often cheaper than a mule back. But it was not only that. A whole culture – eovolved around the mule caravans for centuries – seemed set to disappear.

Kunda Dixit writes in his article: “Horses, mules and donkeys have always been a part of Mustang’s landscape and culture. Horses, in particular, have a prominent place in Tibetan lore and language, the animal not just a means of transport but also serving as a potent symbol of speed, certitude and good fortune. But all this is soon about to change with the arrival of the road from the south that will make it possible to drive from Pokhara to Lo Manthang in less than 12 hours, and connect to the road to the Chinese border at Kore La.” Read Dixit’s article on the effects of the new road here…!

Jun 132015
 
Longing for the pristine.

Longing for the pristine.

Imagine being on a hike along a seemingly pristine mountain trail, feeling light years away from the noise and smog of the city. Why did you go there? Well, not because you had to reach the market in town or the healthpost to see the doctor or buy medicine. No, you went there longing precisely for the pristine and isolated, hoping to connect with the silence of the mountains and feeling back in time to how Nepal once was. Then, unforgivingly, the roar of a truck breaks the silence and you are left in a cloud of warm dust and fumes as the heavy vehicle climbs on to the next bend. So much for pristine and isolated! Continue reading »

Jun 132015
 

"Watch out or the Paharis will take you" - kids were told

“Roads and transport make many things easier and cheaper: boy porter

Roads is not a panacea, Irin Asia writes, but it’s an inescapable part of any national development. In many districts, poor transportation is automatically making price levels higher! It’s more expensive to bring goods and it’s equally costly to collect produce and bring it to town. Few well-qualified teachers want to settle at a remote school far away from the comfortable lifestyle of more accessible areas. Healthwise, lack of roads also means poor access to good health services. Indeed, the list goes on. Here is a lot more on why roads – according to many – are the question!

Jun 132015
 

Lukla at Everest: destination of new road

Lukla at Everest: destination of new road

Government has announced a plan to built a 100 km. paved road from Jiri to Lukla. Tour organisers have been longing for such a road for many years. Reason? Bad weather often disrupts flights to Lukla, making trips to Everest chaotic and more expensive. Indeed, some trekkers might also like the new road for allowing them to skip the four days walk up to Lukla. But what about the loss of quiet mountain ambience? Well, nothing mentioned about that. It’s all about getting tourists to Everest and making money on it. All understandable of course. Work is set to commence now! Read more…

Only 12 percent of Nepalis, including those living in urban areas, consider the roads where they live “good”. IRIN Asia

Jun 132015
 

There’s only one highway from Kathmandu directly to the Indian border – and it’s often a hassle taking it. Congestion can cause major delays and even when it doesn’t, the trip easily takes 7-8 hours. But now those troubles may soon be gone. A four-lane freeway – with miles-long tunnels – it set to cut through hills and rocks from Hetauda to the capital. New travel time: one hour! The company behind it is NPBCL or Nepal Burwadhar Bikash Company Ltd and the project title: Kathmandu-Kulekhani-Hetauda Tunnel (KKHT) Highway. The video opposite is in Nepali but shows an animation that tells the story. Continue reading »

Jun 132015
 

Until the roads come: traditional transport

Until the roads come: traditional transport

Highways, bridges, tunnels – all are crucial to Nepal’s economic growth and development. That’s the government view and that of major donors like the World Bank. Indeed, it’s going to transform the country in many ways – once it happens – and you might miss the quiet of the past. But it’s hard to argue with: few countries have achieved strong economic growth and development without fairly good infrastructure. As illustrated here with excerpts from an article in World Highways, common arguments go like this:

“Nepal’s road network is growing but there is an enormous need for more investment. A study in 2007 revealed that the country had 10,142 km in all of surfaced roads and a further 7,140 km of unsurfaced roads. Nepal has 75 District Headquarters and up to 15 have no direct connection by road, while 33% of the population live at least two hours walk from a road, presenting a major challenge to economic growth as well as for other factors such as education or health… Because Nepal is landlocked, it relies on its transport links with China and India for trade and the nearest port is in Kolkata (Calcutta). But there is only one dependable road link between the Kathmandu Valley and India at present and the development of a new route will bring enormous economic benefits.”

So, what are the plans for highways, bridges and tunnels? Well, here’s the article with latest details…

“Nepal has 75 District Headquarters and up to 15 have no direct connection by road, while 33% of the population live at least two hours walk from a road…” In World Highways

Jun 132015
 

Jungle in jeopardy: proposed plan for highway and railway

Jungle in jeopardy: proposed plan for highway and railway

It’s one of the most successful conservation initiatives in Asia: the Chitwan National Park! Sure, many tourists go there without seeing a trace of tigers, still calling Chitwan home. But rhinos are a common sight and poaching has become steadily less common, according to conservationists. Indeed, the quiet and unique jungle atmosphere is a treasure of its own! But if the government has it’s way, it won’t remain so for long! The government plans to lead a highway and railway track through the park. Will it happen? It’s not certain, but it just might. We love the jungle of Chitwan – once the biotop of most of Terai – so we have signed a petition against the project. Or is the encroachment on the reserve worth the income and employment that a highway and railway might create? Well, guess it all depends…