National pride projects to face resource crunch

KATHMANDU: National pride projects that are already facing criticism for not being able to give good progress result, are likely to face a problem in giving continuity to ongoing construction works.

This emerged as a major concern as the government is focusing on reconstruction of damaged infrastructure in the aftermath of the April 25 earthquake.

Government officials and contractors said that the national priority development projects, mainly those related to physical infrastructure sector are expected to face resource crunch in the budget for next fiscal year, besides a shortage of workers.

Similarly, the huge reconstruction drive expected to start after the rainy season is expected to create shortage of construction materials such as bricks, stones, aggregates and sand, among others.

As a consequence of the disaster, the performance of many national pride projects in the final quarter of the current fiscal year has also been dismal with contractors and workers not working properly in sites after the earthquake. Immediately after the quake, many government engineers were also deputed for impact assessment activities halting the project works.

“We could not work effectively after the earthquake as our engineers are busy collecting details of the impact of the earthquake,” said Bala Ram Mishra, chief of Mid-Hill Highway (Western Section). He said that they had met the target set for the current fiscal year and sought an additional Rs 900 million to speed up black-topping under multi-year contract.

Later, citing resource crunch, the Ministry of Finance provided only Rs 300 million. Even as the government requires huge resources for reconstruction, the Development Committee of the Legislature-Parliament, a few days ago, had suggested that the government provide adequate budget to national pride projects and manage funds for rehabilitation and rebuilding from other international sources and donors.

The government has listed 21 projects related to road, hydropower, irrigation, railway, tourism infrastructure and drinking water as national pride projects. Jaya Ram Lamichhane, immediate past president of the Federation of Contractors Association of Nepal said that since the reconstruction works and national pride projects are both major agendas of the government, they should be taken forward simultaneously. “As demand for construction materials go up, the government must also consider using cement board in place of bricks,” he added.

As per the existing provision, crusher plants will also not be allowed to operate their businesses from existing places from the next fiscal year. This will create shortage of stones and sand for construction works if the government fails to come up with a viable solution. Though the government has identified 96 locations to relocate existing crusher plants, the areas are yet to get facility of access road and electricity.

National priority projects like Second International Airport, Gautam Buddha Regional International Airport, Kathmandu-Tarai Fast Track road, Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project and Melamchi Drinking Water Project are some of the big government plans that hold huge importance for national development. Though progress of a few projects including the Mid-Hill Highway is satisfactory in the current fiscal year, a majority of projects are already facing trouble related to land acquisition and environmental study, among others, giving poor performance and delaying the project completion date.

Rajeshwor Man Singh, superintendent engineer of the Department of Railways said that they were not able to conduct detailed project report (DPR) of four western sections of the Mechi-Mahakali Electrified Railway Project as planned for the current fiscal year because the issue is under consideration at the Supreme Court. “Other works like construction of track is going on and how the project will move ahead in the next fiscal will depend on the budget allocation,” he said.

With the government focusing on reconstruction of physical infrastructure damaged by the earthquake and resource limitation, the ongoing projects might get less priority, according to a high level official of the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport, which oversees a majority of national pride projects. “Resource allocation plan for big projects requiring comparatively more resources, will depend on how the international community and donors respond to the government’s call to support in reconstruction,” said the official.