Risky road

  • The sorry state of Muglin-Narayangadh highway has added to the woes of the common traveller

Jun 28, 2017-That people are taking time out of their busy schedule to take part in today’s local elections is encouraging news. The number of vehicles leaving Kathmandu in the last few days has increased, as people have travelled to their ancestral homes or permanent residences to cast their vote. According to the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division, an average of around 83,000 passengers left Kathmandu daily in the last few days—much higher than on other days. 

The number of people leaving the city on their private vehicles and by flights has also gone up. A senior executive at a well-known airline company said flights were operating at full capacity to all destinations where polling is taking place today. 

Still, for a large majority of Nepalis, public buses are the primary, if not the only, means of long-distance travel. Unfortunately, they are far from safe. In fact, road accidents are quite 

common in Nepal, where an average of around six people die daily in such disasters. Many 

others are seriously injured. 

It is precisely because of such risks that a 

significant number of people have also cancelled their travel plans for the elections. What this essentially means is that they have had to forgo their democratic right to vote because road 

travel in Nepal is not safe enough. It is 

unfortunate indeed that the country’s weak infrastructure has prevented many Nepalis from electing their local representatives in an 

opportunity they got after two long decades. 

Nepal’s roads become especially precarious during the monsoon, when the risk of landslides increases significantly. Because of landslides, the Muglin-Narayangadh road section, a major route connecting Kathmandu with the Tarai, has already been blocked a couple of times this season. There have been a few fatalities too. Two Nepal Police personnel were killed last week after a police van was swept away by a landslide at Kalikhola along the road section.

The 36-km Muglin-Narayangadh highway, which witnesses a movement of around 8,000 vehicles daily, is one of the country’s busiest. It is also highly susceptible to landslides. According to experts, geological structure, frequent 

movements of vehicles and vibrations from equipment used for road construction have added to the area’s vulnerability. The project to widen the highway, which started in April 2015, was expected to be completed in two years, but the deadline has been extended to December-end. It’s still doubtful if the new deadline will be met. This points to the larger problems in the country’s infrastructure development planning.  

Such a dire and risky state of the country’s major road artery has widespread consequences. It not only affects the movement of people, in the form of cancelled or lengthy trips, but also the delivery of essential items like foodstuffs, fuel and medicine. As such, the government should push the contractors to complete the road expansion work at the earliest. It should also expedite the construction of other routes, such as the Kathmandu-Nijgadh Fast Track, that connect the Capital to the Tarai.

Published: 28-06-2017 07:58

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