Bhawani Bhatta, The Kathmandu Post, 31 May 2018
The construction of the Postal Highway in the far western Tarai has slowed to a crawl, due to the contractor’s negligence and land disputes in some sections of the highway project. The 64-km stretch of road extending from Dokebazaar –Belauri-Beldandi to Daiji has a completion deadline of February 2019.
However, as of May, the project has achieved only 30 percent progress, according to Postal Highway Project. The total contract period of the project, which was divided into three packages, was three years. “In some of the places, works were halted due to land dispute,” said Manish Kumar Sah, chief of the project. “The locals were reluctant to provide their land for the project.” Similarly, issues were raised in some sections as the road has to cross Shukla Phanta National Park. “But now, almost all problems have been resolved,” said Sah. However, the contractor is reluctant to expedite the works now, he said. “We have warned the contractor on different occasions to speed up the works.”
In the first package, the 20-km stretch has been awarded to Rajendra Construction Services. The first package contract is worth Rs332 million. Likewise, the second package of 20-km stretch from Belauri-Beldandi was awarded to Siddhi Shahi Construction Company at Rs437.6 million. The third package of 24-km stretch of Beldandi-Daiji road was awarded to Rajendra Construction at Rs341.6 million. According to Sah, the physical progress of first and second packages has reached 30 percent and 50 percent, respectively. However, the progress of the third package is only 15 percent. “If the project progresses at its current pace, we will be unable to meet the completion deadline,” he said.
Local people are suffering from dust pollution as soil filling works of the project has started. The contractor company said that frequent disputes, particularly in the national park areas, prevented them from expediting the project in previous months.
“However, the disputes have been resolved and we have started to speed up works of the third package,” said Dilananda Giri, an engineer of the project.
Of the total 24-km stretch of the third package, 14-km stretch lies in the national park area. “In the past months, the project had slowed to crawl due to shortage of construction materials and fuel,” said Giri. “The local election last year had also stopped the works.”
The road connects 20 districts in the southern Tarai belt. The national pride project was initiated in the early 1990s. However, it was only in 2004 that Nepal and India signed an agreement to conduct a study to upgrade the road networks linking the Postal Highway. The highway, also known as Hulaki Marga, extends 975 km from east to west. The project also includes an additional 817 km of roads that will connect all Tarai districts.