The roads of Kathmandu are a bane for its denizens. Whether in the rains or otherwise, it is always a toil on the Capital’s roads.
In 2012, the government led by then prime minister Baburam Bhattarai started work on the expansion of the Capital’s roads. In this major task, the Ministry of Urban Development, Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport, Kathmandu Valley Development Authority (KVDA), Kathmandu Valley Road Expansion Project (KVREP), Kathmandu Metropolitan City and Department of Roads are working jointly. However, the task seems to be moving at a sluggish pace though political leaders have claimed that it is on the ‘fast track’.
Manoj Shrestha, Chief of KVREP, said, “Right now there are three expansion projects running inside the Valley roads. And it is estimated to be completed within two years.”
The road expansion project of Kathmandu started four years ago with a target to build 79 km of paved roads. Till date, 36 km have been paved at a cost of more than Rs 420,000,000. The government had allocated Rs 300,000,000 to KVREP for the expansion works, to which Rs150,000,000 more was added later. A large amount is still needed for the remaining 43 km.
Road expansion at these places in going on at present — Ratna Park-Bagh Bazaar-Sinamangal, Chabahil-Jorpati-Sankhu, and Tripureshwor-Kalanki-Nagdhunga. Road expansion in the Chabahil-Jorpati-Sankhu, and Tripureshwor-Kalanki-Nagdhunga was proposed by the government to authorities a year ago, while the stretch from Ratnapark-Bagh Bazaar-Sinamangal has been widened and paved. However, the road stretch in Sinamangal that was widened and paved a month ago is already in ‘patches’ with the road split in the middle with the asphalt coming out.
In defence, Shrestha claimed that Him Pipe was put under the road for drainage and because it wasn’t paved properly, the asphalt had come out. “Our team is mending the road,” Shrestha assured.
Meanwhile, it looks like the project regarding the 12 km stretch from Chabahil-Jorpati-Sankhu will not complete in the said time. The KVDA has not been able to completely demolish all the illegal houses in this stretch. This road is planned at 22 metres wide.
The Tripureshwor-Kalanki-Nagdhunga is planned to be widened to 18 metres. The Kalanki-Nagdhunga stretch is part of the Tribhuvan Highway, the entry to Kathmandu Valley. Though the work was started a year ago, it has only been able to put markers on both sides of the road.
One cannot only blame the government and authorities concerned for the delay. Some local people from Kalimati, Sankhu and Thankot moved the court regarding compensation, which resulted in a stay order. In those areas, the KVREP has stopped work after finishing demarcation of the road.
The road has not been expanded in some parts of Jorpati because the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has not been able to remove the electricity poles. Shrestha said that KVREP has not provided funds needed to NEA for the same.
The KVREP is responsible for expansion of roads above 14 metres wide, Kathmandu Division 1 and 2 are responsible for roads that are 8-14 metres wide, while Kathmandu Metropolitan City is responsible for roads that are below eight metres wide.
In 2015, the government created 26 new municipalities and one sub-metropolitan city across the nation. When Tokha became a municipality, the locals were very happy. However, their happiness has short-lived. Locals demolished their houses to make space for road expansion. But nothing changed — the road is the same.
The unpaved road gives rise to a lot of dust in the summer which the locals have named ‘swadeshi’ powder, and in rainy season, the entire road becomes a river of mud.
Sunita Maharjan, 22, from Tokha is one such victim. “My house is attached to the main road. The shop from which we buy regular things lies across the street. To reach the shop, I have to jump like frog to avoid the muck, however, it is not possible to escape this muck. In the summer, it seems like we are bathing in dust.”
Pedestrians are not the only ones suffering on these unpaved roads. Micro van drivers would prefer not to drive on these roads. Shyam Bhujel from Nuwakot drives a mini-micro van from Bhrikuti Mandap to Tokha. “I drive the micro van twice a week. Because of the unpaved road, it is really risky. It also takes a lot of money to maintain the vehicle, more than what one can earn. So, most drivers don’t want to drive in this route but because of our vehicle committee we must.”
Till the expansion work is complete, Kathmandu’s people can only wait and hope the expansion of the roads are completed in the given time frame.
According to Kathmandu Division-1 Chief, Dharmendra Jha, “Twenty-four kilometres have been paved whereas 60 km will be paved within one year.” A sum of Rs 220,000,000 has been spent to pave this stretch, whereas for remaining they will need Rs 400,000,000.
Division-1 is responsible for paving the stretch from Tripureshwor Statue-Budhanilkantha Temple. Jha said, “We have to cover the eastern part of Kathmandu.” Till now, Division-1 has completed Mid-Baneshwor’s many paths.
“The road expansion from Ratna Rajya HS School-Sangam Chowk-Gairidhara-Baluwatar (from Speaker Onsari Gharti’s home) to Lazimpat and Gaurighat-Tushal and Gairidhara-Bouddha have been completed,” informed Jha.
Work is in progress in the sections — Chuchepati-Chunnikhel (8 km), Gopi Krishna-Budhanilkantha (8 km), and Saraswoti Nagar-Bhrikutichowk. “Demarcation of road has been completed in these areas and the contractor is surveying,”
In the section Ganesh School-Chakli-Budhanilkantha-Chunnikhel (2.5 km) gravelling has started, Budhanilkantha-Shivapuri (1.5 km) and Budhanilkantha-Kailung School (1.5 km) demarcation has been completed. In the sections Deubachowk-Shivapuri (1.5 km), Maharajgunj-Gyan Joti Marg and Sukedhara-New Coli, pitching of the roads remain.
“Due to the rainy season, carving with asphalt has been stopped from June 15,” informed Jha. The work will start from the second or third week of September.
Out of 45 km of road that Kathmandu Division–2 is responsible for, it has completed expansion of 15 km.
Division-2 Chief Karna Bahadur Ranabhat said, “We have finished 30 per cent of the total work. In the multi-layer contract, finishing that amount of work is taken as having completed 100 per cent work.”
In this sector, 34 sections of the road should be expanded within three years. Thirteen sections have been in expansion mode since last year. Twenty-one more roads will be under expansion mode from this fiscal year. For the expansion process, Rs 35-40 crore have been spent already.
According to Ranabhat, the road from Kirtipur Tribhuvan University Gate-Kirtipur Baipass, Samakhushi-Tokha and Tokha-Gurje are being expanded now. These roads, which had been planned for expansion four years ago, have just finished marking the line.
According to Department of Roads’s Spokesperson Daya Kanta Jha, “In the national arena, a big project like Dharan-Chatura, Syaprubeshi-Rasuwagadhi-Kimathanka road will be expanding soon.”
A version of this article appears in print on July 09, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.