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Tendering process for remaining portion of Postal Highway starts

- RAJESH KHANAL, Kathmandu

Mar 20, 2019-

The Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport has started the tendering process to build the remaining 544-km portion of the 1,792-km Postal Highway after the Finance Ministry agreed in principle to release the required funds.

Construction of the Postal Highway, which extends across the length of the country, has been dragging on for more than a decade. The ministry blamed the hold-up on obstruction by locals and delays in the construction of bridges. Physical Infrastructure Minister Raghubir Mahaseth said on Tuesday the bids would be invited soon. According to him, the government has planned to finish the remaining segment of the highway in the next three years.

The long-running highway project has been stymied by inadequate budget allocations, lack of construction materials, land acquisition issues and slowpoke contractors. Of the 125 bridges on the highway, half a dozen bridges at Tilawe, Thute, Aruwa and Bhakuwa in Bara, Parsa, Rautahat and Chitwan districts are yet to be constructed, said the ministry.

Last year, the government was able to complete just two bridges and a 140-km segment of the highway, and 69 km of the newly constructed stretch was blacktopped over the review period.  

The Postal Highway, popularly known as Hulaki Marga, 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 extends 975 km from east to west. The project also includes another 817 km of roads that will connect all Tarai districts. The highway is considered to be a major lifeline of the Madhes region, and is expected to benefit farmers by providing access to markets to sell their crops.

The construction of the Postal Highway is estimated to cost Rs25 billion. India has pledged to provide a Rs8 billion grant while the government is putting up the rest of the money. As of last August, India had released 30 percent (Rs2.35 billion) of the pledged assistance.

Minister Mahaseth said the government had accorded priority to the construction of bridges on the main road links in a bid to speed up construction. According to him, 94 out of the 100 bridges planned to be built last year were completed.

According to the Public Procurement Monitoring Office, 13 errant firms—contractors and suppliers—have been blacklisted from mid-January for getting involved in a large number of projects without completing them on time. It is in the process of blacklisting another 32 firms for similar offences. Most of the firms are involved in the construction of bridges and irrigation projects.

While several projects got bogged down, many others produced satisfactory results during the review period, according to the ministry. Mahaseth said the construction of four bridges on Mahendra Highway was completed ahead of schedule. They include the 225-metre bridge across the Ratu Khola, 400-metre bridge across the Marine Khola, 500-metre bridge across the Kamala River and 350-metre bridge across the Bheri River.

Published: 20-03-2019 09:31

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