Kathmandu, April 11
At least eight national pride projects had failed to initiate any physical work as of last fiscal year, signalling rapid erosion in the government’s capacity to implement physical infrastructure projects deemed crucial for economic development of the country.
National Pride Projects, such as 1,200-megawatt Budhigandaki Hydropower Project, Lumbini Area Development Fund, North-South Highway (Karnali), North-South Highway (Kaligandaki), Railway and Metro Project, Pokhara Regional International Airport, Second International Airport in Nijgadh and West Seti Hydroelectric Project, had not begun construction till the end of last fiscal year, shows the audit report of the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) published today.
The government has identified 21 projects as ‘national pride’ considering the catalytic role they can play in socio-economic development of the country. To ensure early completion of these projects, the government has also pledged to remove all the hurdles on the way of their implementation.
Yet, projects such as Lumbini Area Development Fund, which was identified as national pride in fiscal year 1985-86, had received a score of zero in terms of meeting physical target as of last fiscal year, shows the report. The Fund, which is overseeing restoration of Lumbini Garden, the birthplace of Gautama Buddha, has been allocated a budget of Rs seven billion.
The report shows even projects that have begun implementation are taking a long time to complete the construction works. For example, Babai Irrigation Project, which can irrigate 13,500 hectares of land, was categorised as national pride project in fiscal year 1988-89. But till the end of last fiscal, the project had met only 41 per cent of physical target.
This is the same with Bheri-Babai Diversion Multipurpose Project. The project, which aims to divert water from Bheri to Babai river to irrigate 60,000 hectares of land in Bardiya and Banke districts and generate about 400 gigawatt hours of electricity annually, was identified as a national pride project in fiscal year 2011-12. But as of last fiscal, it was able to meet only 10 per cent of physical target.
“Many projects were given the tag of ‘national pride’ without creating a definite standard; and there is no separate legal framework to ensure their proper implementation. Thus, many of these projects have not prepared detailed report, and lack implementation capacity and inter-agency coordination,” says the OAG report.
The best performing national pride project, according to the OAG, is 456MW Upper Tamakoshi Hydroelectric Project, which has met 77.2 per cent of physical target. The project, funded by domestic financial institutions and companies, received the label of national pride in fiscal year 2010-11 and was supposed to come into operation in February 2017. However, the devastating earthquakes of last April and May have pushed back its commercial operation date.
A version of this article appears in print on April 12, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.