National

Defence minister-led panel to steer project

  • kathmandu-tarai expressway
- Post Report, Kathmandu

Jun 4, 2018-

The government has decided to form a monitoring committee led by Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Ishwar Pokhrel for spearheading construction of the Kathmandu-Tarai Expressway.

Endorsing the Expressway Operation Working Procedure, a Cabinet meeting on Sunday decided to form the committee with secretaries from Defence, Finance and Physical Infrastructure ministry as members. Besides the political leadership and civil servants, the Army chief will be on the committee.

The proposed 76km expressway will link the Capital with Nijgadh in the plains where

a Second International Airport is also planned to be built. The Fast Track is expected to bring the Capital and the Bara district within an hour’s drive.

Government Spokesperson Minister for Communication and Information Technology Gokul Baskota said the committee would help clear roadblocks to project implementation while ensuring timely completion of the road.

“It’ll help clear issues like tree felling and settling disputes over compensation for the land acquired,” said Minister Baskota. For instance, people of Khokana, one of the oldest settlements in Kathmandu Valley, have been protesting against the plan to take the Fast Track through the area, fearing “assault on heritage sites, livelihood and indigenous identity”. If the government fails to acquire the land in Khokana, it may have to realign the planned expressway.

Since the government handed over the project to Nepal Army in May last year after failed attempts to develop it under Public Private Partnership, the Army has initiated process to select a consultant for preparing the detailed project report.

While the NA has taken charge, domestic or international contractors would do most of the major works. The track for the shortest route between Kathmandu and the Tarai was also opened by the Army. A total of 17 firms, including a domestic one, have expressed their interest to prepare the DPR. One year after the deal, the Nepal Army is carrying out preliminary works without a DPR and a consulting agency for the mega structure the country plans to see through in the next four years.

With Khokana locals’ reservations, there is confusion over whether to make Khokana or Pharsidol the starting point of the expressway. The two places are 5 km apart.

After protests in Khokana, Defence Minister Pokhrel visited both the places on May 25 and had discussions with the local residents. He had pledged that the government would take up the best option available to protect the cultural heritage of Khokana.

The government, in its budget for the upcoming fiscal year tabled in Parliament, has earmarked Rs15.39 billion for the expressway, up from the Rs10.14 billion allocated for the current fiscal.

Published: 04-06-2018 07:34

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