Valley

Delayed Kalanki-Nagdhunga road project is taking a toll on locals and commuters

  • There is dust everywhere and hours-long traffic jams are causing mental stress, they say
- Anup Ojha, Kathmandu

Mar 23, 2019-

Hira Maharjan owns a clothing store in Naikap. Every day, thousands of vehicles pass by his shop, which is along the Kalanki-Nagdhunga road section. The spot is perfect to receive customers, but the under-construction road has become Maharjan’s bane, for he sits all day in his shop wearing a mask to protect himself from the dust emanating from the road.

“I wonder when this road construction works will complete,” said Maharjan as he made a futile attempt to clear the layers of dust from the clothes hanging in his store. “The delayed road expansion work is hampering business.”

Those who live along the Kalanki-Nagdhunga section and those who take this nine-kilometre road every day say they have been driven to despair.

Last year, Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Raghubir Mahaseth vowed to complete the road expansion work by August. But so far, only half of the road section has been blacktopped. In September last year, locals had obstructed vehicles along the road for about an hour and a half to protest against the tardy progress.

“The contractor has repaired the road sections where people had protested. The minister’s promise has gone in vain,” said Maharjan.

While inspecting the construction works on July 29 last year, Minister Mahasheth had publicly announced to take stringent action against the main contractor if it failed to complete the works by August.

The contract to expand the Kalanki-Nagdhunga road section was awarded to Shailung Construction in June 2015. The construction company holds contracts for over half a dozen road stretches inside Kathmandu Valley, but progress in a majority of the projects are tardy.

Despite its poor track record, the company, however, has not faced any action, nor has it got a rap on the knuckles, and many believe it is because of political connections the contractor maintains with politicians.

Shailung Construction is owned by Sharada Prasad Adhikari. Former prime minister and Nepal Communist Party Co-chair Puspha Kamal Dahal currently lives in Adhikari’s house in Khumaltar.

Maharjan, the shop owner, said he did not know why there was a delay in construction works. “But what I know is our leaders are good at making false promises.”

Dhunga Adda to Satungul bridge (2km), Nepal Electricity Office to Telecommunication Office (1km), and Tribhuwan Park to Kharibot area (0.5km) along the Kalanki-Nagdhunga road are yet to be blacktopped.

Some compensation issues also have resulted in the delay, according to local level representatives.

Krishna Prasad Khadgi, chairperson of ward 4 of Chandragari Municipality, said around 150 households from Tribhuvan Park to Thankot area have not received compensation yet. “Based on the initial road standard, each side of the road should go up to 25 metres on both sides from the centre, but if this standard is implemented, government can’t pay compensation,” said Khadgi.

Last week’s Supreme Court verdict is now likely to make compensation issues more complicated. The top court in its verdict has asked the authorities to compensate locals for their houses as well as land that they will lose during the road expansion.

Arjun Aryal, project manager at the Kathmandu Valley Road Improvement Project, said the Supreme Court’s last week’s order has made the road widening process almost impossible.

“With this new verdict, which calls for paying compensation for houses and land, the cost is also sure to go up,” Aryal told the Post.

Without settling the compensation issue, it looks unlikely that the road will be completed anytime soon. And the dust-filled road has been a great inconvenience for people who commute every day from Thankot area to Kathmandu and Lalitpur. According to Metropolitan Traffic Police Division over 70,000 people travel in more 10,000 public and private vehicles every day via the Kalanki-Nagdhunga road.

The undergoing construction also results in huge traffic jams, sometimes holding up vehicles for hours.

“There is always a large plume of dust. We can even feel dust particles in our mouth since early morning,” said Replica Amatya, who commutes between Kharibot and Kathmandu every day for work. “Besides physical health hazard, this treacherous road section, with long hours in traffic jam, is causing stress and fatigue. Every evening when I arrive home from Kathmandu or Patan, I feel depressed just because of the road condition and jam,” Amatya told the Post. “It takes at least two hours to reach Patan from my home in Kharibot.”

Construction of Kalanki-Nagdhunga road does not fall under the jurisdiction of Chandragiri Municipality, but officials said they were receiving complaints from locals almost every day.

“We actually don’t have any say in this issue, but we have to listen to the people when they come up with complaints,” Mayor Ghanshyam Giri told the Post. “Nonetheless, I have repeatedly spoken with Province 3 Chief Minister Dor Mani Paudel and Minister Mahaseth about the condition of Kalanki-Nagdhunga road section. But nothing has happened,” he said.

Road Department officials, however, said blacktopping of the remaining sections of the road would be completed by mid-April.

“Then the second layer of blacktopping will be completed by May,” said Rabindra Shrestha, director general at the Department of Roads. “Since there are issues of compensation, now we are not going to demolish any houses that are along the road. We will simply blacktop wherever construction has been completed.”

Those reside along the road section and who commute every day, however, are still concerned whether they can get to breathe easily in near future.

“Almost all locals have some sort of respiratory problems as they are forced to inhale dust particles. We are going through torture,” said Dhanabahadur Maharjan, 56, who runs a stationery shop in Naikap.

Published: 24-03-2019 07:00

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