Print Edition - 2014-06-30 | MONEY
The long and winding Postal Road languishes in oblivion
Jun 29, 2014-
Lack of maintenance has turned the historical Postal Road, which hugs the southern border and spans the length of the country from Chandragadhi, Jhapa in the east to Belauri, Kanchanpur in the west, into something resembling a track for off-road driving.
Gravely patches, craters, dust bowls and bumpy blacktopped sections mark the route due to decades of neglect following the construction of the East-West Highway further inland. Moreover, occasional repair work has been abandoned halfway as road contractors fled intimidated by the task. In short, the Postal Road, one of the oldest highways in the country, is in bad shape.
The Kathmandu Post correspondents Manoj Poudel from Kapilvastu, Bhusan Yadav from Parsa, Laxmi Sah from Rautahat, Shiva Puri from Rautahat and Aman Koirala from Sarlahi report on the status of the venerable route.
Dulare Kurmi of Vilmi, Kapilvastu had heard that the Postal Road would be blacktopped when his grandson was a two-year-old toddler. The grandson is now a strapping 22-year-old youth, but the road is yet to be blacktopped. The locals are fed up with the delays in blacktopping the pockmarked 21-km section from Taulihawa to Bahadurgunj.
Eight years ago, this stretch was gravelled but it has returned to its old dilapidated state. Bus operators have stopped services on the route fearing damage to their vehicles. “Only small jeeps can operate here,” said a jeep driver Hari Ram Kewat.
The Western Region Road Division Office-5 is in charge of reconstruction work on the road. An engineer at the division office Rajesh Yadav said that work had stalled due to lack of funds. The District Development Committee has been ignoring calls to work on the project stating that it does not fall under its purview.
Meanwhile, repair work on another part of the road located in Bara and Parsa has been at a standstill for the last six months as the contractor Viswa Construction of Hyderabad, India has fled. The company had been awarded a Rs 710 million contract to build a 119-km road in Parsa and Bara. It had also been contracted to blacktop the Sarlahi section.
Similarly, in Sunsari, a contract had been awarded to blacktop the Malangwa-Nawalpur and New Road-Madhuvani sections with a grant from India. But three years have passed and nothing has happened after the Indian contractor Viswa Construction ran away. The government has allocated funds to relocate electricity poles, repair the road and compensate land owners, but the project lies immobile.
Former divisional engineer Kishor Rai, who was assigned to monitor the task by the Department of Road, said that work had not moved ahead although blacktopping is easier on the Tarai plains. “I have never seen a contractor abandoning a project without completing even 1 percent of the work,” he added. The locals have been making repeated visits to government offices demanding an early completion of the project.
Likewise, the Rautahat section of the Postal Road is in a terrible state. During the rainy season, vehicular movement on the 22-km section comes to a complete stop. The road from Bagmati Dam to Jhunkhunuwa, Fatuwa, Maheshpur, Laukaha, Basantapatti, Kopwa, Papiriya, Sarmujhwa and Pathar Budhram VDCs is a wreck, said Local Development Officer Basanta Kumar Bhandari.
“The work of getting the road blacktopped and gravelled should have already started with the assistance of the Indian government. However, it hasn’t happened so far,” said Bhandari. Dipendra Yadav, technician at the District Development Committee (DDC), Rautahat said that the worn out road has made it difficult for people to commute.
The only good part of the Postal Road is the section lying in Rupandehi district. Vehicular movement has become easier after the road was widened. The areas near the road have been transformed into an industrial corridor in the past few years.
The expansion of the road from Parshachok, Lumbini to Bhairahawa has helped development of the Lumbini area. Large factories line the 20-km section. There are altogether three dozen large and small industries in operation along the highway. Investors have sunk around Rs 11 billion in the area.
“The expansion of the Postal Road has changed the face of the villages near the highway,” said Pramod Yadav, a local resident. He added that he had been encouraged to operate the Hotel Radisson Resort and his housing business with an investment of Rs 250 million in Basantapur.
Around a decade ago, travelling on the Bhairahawa-Parashi route was a nightmare. After the road was blacktopped, ox and buffalo carts have disappeared and big trucks and tractors now whisk cargo to their destinations. Local lifestyles too have changed with an increase in income.
Real estate prices have soared, and people are shifting from their traditional homes into modern buildings.
Published: 30-06-2014 09:09