National

Foundation stone laid for Ktm-Tarai expressway

- SANJEEV GIRI, Kathmandu

May 29, 2017-Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal on Sunday laid the foundation stone for the construction of the Kathmandu-Nijgadh expressway, which is expected to reduce travel time between the Capital and the plains to less than an hour from over six hours. The 76km road project will be helmed by the Nepal Army.

Addressing a ceremony at Nijgadh of Bara district, Prime Minister Dahal said the “historic step” of project inauguration has made the entire nation proud.

“The expressway will not just cut short the travel time to and from Kathmandu but also connect the feelings of the people living in the Hills and the Tarai,” Dahal said, adding that the project would help unite the entire nation and make the country prosperous.

The construction of the expressway had remained in limbo for years due to the lack of clarity over its implementation and the funding modality. Amidst the confusion, the government recently decided to build the project on its own. Subsequently, in the first week of May, the Cabinet decided to hand over the project to the NA.

According to the decision endorsed by the Cabinet, the government will manage financial resources for the project while the Army will oversee the construction.

The Army said a high-level Direction Committee has been formed under Chief of Staff Gen Purna Chandra Thapa. Chief of Army Staff Rajendra Chhetri, addressing the ceremony on Sunday, said the NA will complete the works within the stipulated time of four years.

With the project taking long to take off, construction cost has doubled to Rs112 billion from that estimated seven years ago.

The government led by the late Sushil Koirala had made efforts in 2014 to award the project to an Indian consortium of Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Transportation Networks, IL&FS Engineering and Construction, and Suryavir Infrastructure Construction.

However, questions were raised over the intent of the Koirala government after it decided to offer minimum revenue guarantee of up to Rs15 billion a year to the developer if traffic remained inadequate to generate profit.

At that time, the government had also proposed extending a loan to the Indian developer at a subsidised interest rate, drawing criticism from all quarters. Amid growing controversy, the Supreme Court on October 8, 2015 issued an interim order, throwing cold water on the plan to award the project to the Indian consortium.

Subsequently, the KP Sharma Oli-led administration made a fresh decision to build the project by mobilising the government’s own resources.

The incumbent Cabinet led by Dahal upheld the Oli government’s move. Last December, the government scrapped all the agreements made with the Indian firm and decided to build the expressway on its own.

Public policy and infrastructure expert Surya Raj Acharya lauded the project commencement. He said the project will have positive economic, social, cultural and political implications.

“The expressway is among the few projects that have higher economic rate of return. Apart from saving fuel and cutting travel time, it will also have spillover effect on service industries,” he said, adding that the project will open avenues for constructing the Second International Airport in Nijgadh.

Published: 29-05-2017 08:15

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