Lack of synergy blamed for construction delay

Kathmandu, March 7

The construction of East-West Electric Railway has been halted as the concerned authorities have not approved clearance of 25 hectares of forest in the Bardibas-Nijgadh section of Rautahat district.

Balaram Mishra, director-general of the Department of Railways (DoRW), said the construction works are being delayed as the Ministry of Forests and Environment (MoFE) has not given its nod for forest clearance and the Ministry of Finance (MoF) has not given the budget for the land acquisition.

At present, there is a provision that requires any project that has to fell trees in the protected forest areas to take approval from the related forest office and provide compensation before it can proceed ahead. “We are in big trouble as the finance ministry did not provide us sufficient funds to acquire necessary land to lay the railway tracks,” said Mishra.

Moreover, the Department of Roads is also facing problems in clearing the forest for upgradation of East-West Highway.

The railway route traverses through the Chocha Community Forest of Rautahat.

“The new forest law has mentioned that a certain amount of money should be paid for clearing the forest area. This provision is affecting the execution of the project as we need additional budget, but have not had any positive response from the finance ministry.”

Mishra claimed the DoRW is ‘currently trapped between two ministries’.

Biswanath Oli, secretary at MoFE, said DoRW should have sought the forest clearance through its line ministry — Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport (MoPIT).

“We have requested a letter of commitment from MoPIT regarding the use of forest area and until we get it, the file will not move ahead,” he said.

As per the Forest Act 2020, the concerned stakeholders must provide new land or money as per the valuation of the land to be used in the forest area.

According to Oli, the MoFE, MoPIT and the MoF should hold an extensive discussion on the use of forest land by projects to ensure no other project has to go through the hurdles being faced by East-West Electric Railway.