Kathmandu, May 13
Irritated by bumpy and dust-filled gravelled road, locals residing in Dholahiti, Sunakothi and Chapagaun areas of Lalitpur have completely halted vehicular movement on a six-kilometre road stretch to pressure authorities to expedite construction work, which was stalled over two years ago.
The incomplete construction work has filled the surrounding areas with dust, creating health hazards, locals told THT. Locals said the blockade that came into effect yesterday would only be lifted once the government started black-topping the stretch located around three kilometres from Satdobato.
Locals of wards 10, 11 and 12 of Godavari Municipality have created barriers at around 30 places to prevent movement of vehicles. The blockade is clamped at 7:00 am every day and continues till 5:00 pm.
The latest protest comes a few days after people residing along the dusty Chabahil-Sankhu road segment hit the streets after contractors failed to expand and black-top it for almost four years.
“We didn’t have any option but to resort to protest. How long should we suffer from the incessant dust?” Manoj Maharjan, who resides in Sunakothi, questioned. Locals like Maharjan say the government should either start to widen the road as per the initial plan or black-top it in its current state.
The road segment, which has been blocked, is a part of Kanti Highway, one of Nepal’s earliest highways and the shortest route that links the capital with the Tarai in Hetauda. The construction of the highway began in 1955-56. But most of the portion of the highway was never black-topped.
As population density started going up in the area, the Kathmandu Valley Road Improvement Project on 7 June 2016 signed a contract with Con-tech Pvt Ltd to expand eight-kilometre Dholahiti-Chapagaun road segment from seven to eight metres to 20 metres. The contractor was given a deadline of 10 September 2018 to complete the work. But as of now work on only two-kilometre segment has been completed. “When the contract was handed over, we had a black-topped road,” said Maharjan. “But the contractor dug up everything and left it in today’s state.”
One of the components of the road widening project was partial demolition of houses that fell within the 20-metre periphery. The Kathmandu Valley Development Authority had to demolish the houses by providing compensation to house owners. But around 150 house owners in Thecho and around 70 in Sunakothi did not accept compensation provided by the KVDA. Before this issue could be resolved, the contractor started digging up the road.
“The KVDA has not been able to resolve this problem till date, delaying the road widening work,” said Gajendra Maharjan, mayor of Godavari Municipality. “We are now pushing the authorities to black-top the road in its current state rather than widen it.”
The Kathmandu Valley Road Improvement Project, which is overseeing the road expansion work, is aware of recent developments. “We are holding meetings with concerned agencies to resolve this problem,” KVRIP Spokesperson Bishwo Bijaya Lal Shrestha said. “We will soon decide whether or not to continue road expansion work or black-top the segment as demanded by locals.”
The blockade imposed by locals has drawn the attention of authorities, but it has also caused inconvenience to daily commuters.
“I have to walk for more than an hour to reach my mum’s house these days, as buses disembark passengers at Dholahiti,” said Sharmila Thapaliya, 34, who was walking with an infant in her arms this afternoon to visit her ailing mother in Pyang Gaun.
The agitating locals, however, have allowed ambulances and vehicles carrying patients to ply on the blocked road segment.
A version of this article appears in print on May 14, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.