Army gears up to begin Ktm-Tarai expressway

  • construction of 76-km roadway
- Binod Ghimire, BIBEK SUBEDI, Kathmandu

Jul 25, 2017-The Nepal Army, which has been authorised to build the Kathmandu-Tarai expressway, has indicated that it might use the Detailed Project Report (DPR) prepared by an Indian consortium, as it has already started making preparations to excavate earth and blast rocks at the construction site of the 76-km roadway.

The DPR of the expressway was previously prepared by an Indian consortium comprising Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS) Transportation Networks, IL&FS Engineering and Construction, and Suryavir Infrastructure Construction. 

The Technical Department of the Nepal Army has initiated the process of hiring consultants to determine if the DPR prepared by the Indian consortium is suitable for acquisition. The team of consultants led by an army officer will go through the report and tell the Technical Division whether the report can be used for construction of the expressway. Although the Army has formally said a decision on using the DPR prepared by the Indian company is yet to be made, preparations being made to begin construction of the expressway right after monsoon suggest there is no option other than using the report prepared by the consortium. 

If the Army decides not to purchase the DPR it will have to prepare a new one, which will take quite some time and delay construction of the strategic road, which is expected to reduce travel time between the country’s Capital and Nijgad in the south to less than an hour.

“The expert team formed to review the report will recommend if the report can be adopted,” said Army Spokesperson Brigadier General Jhankar Bahadur Kadayat. “If it decides to acquire the DPR, the project will have to recompense fund invested by IL&FS to conduct the study and prepare the report.” 

IL&FS has claimed that it has spent around Rs600 million to prepare the DPR. “As per the contract signed with the government, compensation of equivalent amount should be made because the contract was unilaterally terminated by the government,” said a source close to IL&FS. 

Kadayat said the Indian company will be paid only after evaluating its claim and if the expert team suggests that the report be acquired.

The DPR prepared by the Indian consortium had proposed building a four-lane expressway of Asian Class-1 Standard. It also says the expressway should be 23-metre wide in the hills and 25-metre wide in the plains. The expressway will also have around 100 bridges, including 35 smaller ones, and two tunnels that are 11.3-metre wide and 5.5-metre tall.

A high level committee formed under Min Bahadur Shrestha, vice-chairman of the National Planning Commission (NPC), in February, suggested that the government build the expressway on its own using the DPR prepared by the Indian company to save time and money. 

However, the government, in May, decided to hand over the project to the Nepal Army. This move had drawn criticisms as no consideration of roping in the private sector was made at that time. This is the second time the government has decided to involve the Army in the project. Previously, the Army was mobilised to open the track of the expressway. The Army, at that time, was accused of embezzling funds while executing the task. 

Initially, the government had roped in IL&FS-led consortium to build the expressway. The Indian consortium was shortlisted as the potential builder of the expressway in February 2015. 

At the time of the company’s appointment, the consortium had agreed not to recover the cost that had gone into preparation of the DPR, if it was allowed to build the project. The Indian company, in June 2015, submitted the report to the government, which at that time was led by late Sushil Koirala.

As the government of that time was making preparations to award the project to the Indian consortium, questions were raised over the intention of the Koirala-led government after it decided to provide an annual minimum revenue guarantee of up to Rs15 billion a year if road traffic failed to generate adequate profit.

Controversy over this issue prompted the government to scrap all agreements made with the Indian firm.

Published: 25-07-2017 08:09

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