Fate of National Pride Projects
The government has prioritised 21 projects of national importance as Projects of National Pride (PNPs). Despite being in priority, the lack of clear policy has left concerned parties enough room to enjoy different cards of apologies. They have been constantly differed, though not completely denied, leaving the subjects in despair. How long do we need to wait before we are compelled to look away with complete indifference towards the PNPs?
According to Rabindra Adhikari, Chairman at Legislature-Parliament’s Development Committee, one of the major reasons for the incomplete status of the pride projects is the lack of accountable and serious stakeholders involved in the PNPs. He states that weak coordination between three ‘Cs’ — contractor, consultant and consumer — nudged the projects towards its dismal state. He says, “Lack of preparedness, frequent change of governance, lack of coordination between ministries, hassles from local levels on the site, lack of farsightedness about potential challenges likely to come and their precautions, bad service of contractors and weak leadership are a few reasons that are hindering PNPs timely completion.”
Rajendra Raj Sharma, Spokesperson at Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport takes it the other way. He says, “The progress of the work is not satisfactory, but given the situation of Nepal, with less capacity of investment, the delay of the projects is obvious.”
Ongoing PNP projects
The concept of PNPs was introduced in 2012, prioritising projects with huge potential to transform the economic condition of Nepal. Currently, 21 projects are identified as PNPs. There are four irrigation projects (Sikta Irrigation, Babai Irrigation, Rani Jamara-Kulariya Irrigation and Bheri Babai Diversion); three airport projects (Nijgadh International Airport, Gautam Buddha International Airport and Pokhara International Airport); three hydropower projects (Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower, Budhi Gandaki Hydropower and West Seti Hydropower); two development funds of religious value projects (Pashupati Area Development Trust and Lumbini Development Trust); six road ways (Mid-Hill Highway, Postal Highway, Kathmandu-Terai Fast Track (KTFT), Koshi Corridor, Kali Gandaki and Karnali Corridors); East-West Railway; Melamchi Drinking Water Project; and President Chure Terai Madhesh Conservation.
MDWP will postpone further
Melamchi Drinking Water Project (MDWP) is one of the delayed projects which is bound to cross its third deadline in October this year. The project has proposed to extend its deadline by six months aiming to complete it in March 2018. Regarding the sorry state of the project, Rajendra Prasad Pant, Spokesperson at Melamchi Water Supply Development Board, says that the construction of the tunnel is not an easy task as it is to be done underground; the weak rock formation at the area of tunnel excavation is another major difficulty faced by the project due to which the project is taking longer time than anticipated. He stresses, “The Detailed Project Report (DPR) didn’t take into consideration the problem of weak rock formation. We are just able to excavate about 2-3-mt of tunnel per day due to the weak rock formation. This has forced us to push our deadline further.” Pant informs that the construction of the 27.5-km tunnel is so far 92 per cent complete.
Ashish Ghimire, Joint Secretary at Ministry of Water Supply and Sanitation also agrees on the half-baked information provided by the technicians’ on their study report. However, he further says the construction of the tunnel will be completed by December this year; in another three months, support and lining work will be completed, and testing and commissioning will be conducted. “Along with Melamchi’s water flowing into Sundarijal, we will start distribution of water to the Valley through the new pipes laid by Melamchi project as well as through existing pipelines.”
KTFT has a new beginning
Initiated in 2007, KTFT is another project under PNP. KTFT project has seen gradual work progress from May 2017 with the handover of the project to Nepal Army (NA). KTFT, which will connect Kathmandu and Terai, is one of the most talked projects. This stretch will be called the ‘expressway’ with the possibility of vehicles covering a distance of 76.2-km which could be travelled in an hour. According to Brigadier General Jhankar Bahadur Kadayat, Spokesperson at Nepal Army (NA), they are working on removing the landslide hassles of the previous pilot track. He informs that the required equipment for the project are called up and few have been supplied. NA is also preparing the DPR of KTFT project. Kadayat believes that the PNPs under NA will be completed within its time allocated frame if the circumstances remain positive. He says, “If we receive the equipment on time and if the specialists are available when needed then I don’t see why we wouldn’t be able to complete the project on time.”
Priority projects not prioritised
The government has prioritised PNPs on its budget 2017/18; however, there are still many other issues to be addressed. Stakeholders say there are a number of needlessly bureaucratic and time-consuming procedures to go through which has resulted in delayed approval and delayed operation of the project work. Pant says, “There is no problem with budget and human workforce; the hurdle lies within tiresome bureaucratic procedure.” The lack of clear policies is said to have paralysed the national pride projects in the same manner it has paralysed other projects.
According to Shiva Ranjan Poudyal, Information Officer at Nepal Planning Commission (NPC), NPC has prepared a draft of an Act as per the directives of Parliamentary Legislature to regulate and systematise the PNPs, which is under the process of being submitted to the Cabinet.
“NPC now has made parameters to streamline and systematise the PNPs which will fulfil the criteria for projects to be termed as PNP. Along with new projects to be prioritised as PNPs, the law will also be applicable to the ongoing projects; it will scrutinise the project and the concerned parties failing to meet the deadlines will be duly penalised,” adds Poudyal.
Need for a collective effort
To speed up the work of the ongoing projects, provision of prerequisites, accountability to the work and effective monitoring is a must. According to Sharma, the ministry needs to be strict and needs to keep the projects under strong surveillance.
Being a developing country, big projects like PNPs are of great importance in transforming people’s life and achieving nation’s sustainable development.
The factors that are creating hassles for the projects should all be figured out and solved. All the stakeholders concerned should get over their differences and work towards making Projects of National Pride an actual pride for the nation.
“Lack of farsightedness about potential challenges likely to come and their precautions, bad service of contractors and weak leadership are a few reasons that are hindering PNPs timely completion”
Chairman, Legislature-Parliament’s Development Committee
“NPC now has made parameters to streamline and systematise the PNPs which will fulfil the criteria for projects to be termed as PNP. Along with new projects to be prioritised as PNPs, the law will also be applicable to the ongoing projects”
Shiva Ranjan Poudyal
Information Officer, NPC
“The progress of the work is not satisfactory, but given the situation of Nepal, with less capacity of investment, the delay of the projects is obvious”
Rajendra Raj Sharma
Spokesperson, Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport
A version of this article appears in print on August 13, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.