Kathmandu, September 12
The government is revising the priority investment plan (PIP) with a target to discourage the construction of new roads and upgrade the existing ones to all-weather road network.
Further, the change is expected to make it easy for the government to effectively implement projects on need based criteria.
To revise the PIP, the Department of Roads (DoR) has completed the draft, which will be sent to the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport (MoPIT) for approval.
Normally, the DoR prepares the priority plan, the policy document setting priorities for project development, at an interval of 10 years.
The existing PIP was implemented in 2007. It is being revised amid increased length of the Strategic Road Network (SRN) and the government facing problems in according priority to projects and giving results. DoR has said that the PIP to be revised will be implemented till 2022.
The draft of the PIP has focused on increasing the length of black-topped roads under the SRN, improving the quantity of quality roads, and giving priority to the projects that meet implementation criteria, among others.
“The length of the SRN has gone up significantly. Now the focus will be on making all the roads all-weather ones rather than opening new links,” said Luxmi Dutta Bhatta, chief of Project Monitoring and Evaluation Unit of DoR.
He added that the DoR is planning to send the proposed revision to the PIP to MoPIT within a month for approval.
After a significant rise in the number of SRN-listed roads, the requirement of fund allocation and making the roads operable have become a headache for DoR due to limited resources.
That is not all, the increment in road links has been resulting in less focus on needy road projects and delay in their completion. The road sector for long has also been facing hurdles of alignment dispute and land compensation.
As of last fiscal year, the total length of SRN had reached around 27,500 km. Government officials said that the expansion of SRN is not an achievement but rather it is a potential problem or burden on DoR because more than 9,000 km of the operational SRN is earthen road, which is mostly non-engineered and requires costly upgrading.
The earthen roads include significant lengths of additional local roads and tracks or proposed new alignments.
The addition of roads in SRN also poses a major challenge to the government due to the potential demand for upgrading from local leaders and people.
Many of the roads are ‘non-engineered’ local roads that have been constructed through local efforts, often by excavators, according to the DoR.
Earlier, DoR had also been urged to review the current operational and under construction network considering if such road links really meet the basic criteria for inclusion in SRN.
Of the total SRN roads, 11,698 km (42.91 per cent) is black topped, whereas 6,387 km (34.23 per cent) is gravel road.
According to DoR officials, it is not rationale to upgrade and maintain all the extended network to similar standards throughout, so it has become necessary to re-classify the network through the introduction of new categories of national highways and feeder roads so that the construction and maintenance could be carried out accordingly as per need.
A version of this article appears in print on September 13, 2015 of The Himalayan Times.