Festive rush raises safety fears

- SANJEEV GIRI, Kathmandu

Sep 13, 2017-The government’s apathy towards reconstruction of major infrastructure, including roads and bridges, damaged by recent monsoon floods in the southern plains is likely to take a toll on vehicular movement ahead of Dashain when Kathmandu sees a mass exodus of people to their hometowns to celebrate the biggest Hindu festival.

Though the Department of Roads (DoR) has succeeded in resuming vehicular movement across the Eastwest Highway, making alternative arrangements in several road sections, apprehensions abound that it might not be enough to handle the festive rush.

The department has estimated the damage caused by floods at around Rs4 billion. But the government agency is yet to launch the reconstruction process due to lack of budget. “We have asked for the fund from the Ministry of Finance through the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport. But we haven’t heard anything from the other end,” said DoR Spokesperson Ramesh Kumar Singh.

Flagging Ratu bridge in Mahottari; Dhudaura and Jabdighat bridges in Bardiya and some road sections in Rautahat as critical, the DoR had asked the concerned authorities to take necessary steps to protect the infrastructure. Both Ratu and Dhudaura bridges are located in the busy Pathlaiya-Nijgadh section of the Eastwest Highway. The Dhudaura bridge had also bore the brunt of floods three years ago.

While vehicular movement has resumed following installations of bailey bridges, there are fears if those temporary structures put up on the foundation of old flood-hit bridges could withstand the expectant festive rush.

The capacity of the bailey bridges could not be determined at the time of installations as the need to resume vehicular movement took precedence over other things, Singh lamented.

But DoR officials warn that a spike in vehicular flow through these temporary arrangements may pose a threat to people’s lives.

As many as 50 bridges along the major highways, including the Eastwest Highway, have sustained damages in the recent disaster making them vulnerable, according to the DoR. The department has created a number of diversion routes along the highways after road sections were swept away by the floods.

An estimated 2.5 million people are likely to move out of Kathmandu during the festive season. This means a significant rise in the number of traffic on the major road infrastructure over the normal times. The expectant high demands for goods during this time of the year also witnesses a surge in the flow of cargo vehicles. 

Besides, the growing mobility of people due to the local level elections in Province 2 is  piling pressure on the road infrastructure.

Published: 13-09-2017 09:04

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