Nepal | November 12, 2019

PM wary about estimated cost of fast track project

Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, July 10

Following the concerns raised in the parliamentary committees and the Cabinet about timely completion of the Kathmandu-Tarai Fast Track, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has held discussions with the line ministry and other related ministries.

PM Oli sought details about the progress of the much-hyped 76.2-kilometre-long fast track in a discussion held on Monday with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Ishwor Pokharel, Minister for Finance Yubaraj Khatiwada, Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Raghubir Mahaseth, Nepali Army Chief Purna Chandra Thapa and other officials related to the project.

Brigadier General Bigyan Dev Pandey, who is also the spokesperson for NA, informed that NA’s project officials briefed the present condition of the project and assured timely completion of the project during the Monday’s meeting.

However, PM Oli expressed strong reservations against the estimated cost of the project as determined by the detailed project report (DPR).

The NA had awarded the contract to prepare the DPR to a South Korean firm, Soosung Engineering and Consulting, on October 2 last year at a cost of Rs 101.2 million.

However, after getting the DPR from Korean Firm, NA has suggested to change some of the alignments in Khokana and Bungamati of Lalitpur following complaints from the locals.

One NA source informed that the project is estimated to cost nearly Rs 180 billion.

“During the meeting, PM Oli and Finance Minister Khatiwada asked why the projected cost had gone up compared to the previous DPR estimate and urged NA to find ways to minimise the cost,” the NA official told The Himalayan Times seeking anonymity due to sensitivity of the matter.

Earlier, the government had handed over the task of conducting DPR to an Indian firm, Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL- &FS). The IL&FS had completed the DPR study in 2015 and suggested that the project could be completed at Rs 112 billion. The contract with IL&FS was scrapped in 2016 and it was announced that Nepal would build the project on its own.

The defence ministry has tabled the revised DPR of the fast track project to the Cabinet, but the latter has not approved it yet.

As per the NA official, the meeting has formed a committee comprising officials from Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport and NA to look into how the project cost could be brought down.

The meeting has also directed the NA to categorise the work that will be carried out by the NA, domestic contractors and foreign contractors.

NA has been assigned the full responsibility to carry out the fast track project, which it has segregated into three segments. Out of the 76.2-kilometre-long expressway, NA initially plans to construct 17 km on its own, hire dependable Nepali contractors for 37 km of the stretch and sign up foreign contractors for remaining 22.2 km section, which will include tunnels and bridges.

A version of this article appears in print on July 11, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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