Alternative route to cut-off eastern Nepal in five weeks

Kathmandu, September 8:

The government is working out plans to resume transportation to eastern Nepal within five weeks by opening alternative routes and operating helicopters and ferries.

The floods in Koshi river breached its embankments and swept away a section of the East-West Highway, rendering thousands of people homeless and cutting eastern Nepal from the rest of the country.

According to the Department of Roads (DoR), an alternative route from Kanchanpur of Saptari to Dharan of Sunsari via Fattepur, Rampur and Chatara would come into operation within five weeks.

Tulasi Sitaula, director general of the DoR, said the construction of the alternative route had already begun on Saptari and that the construction from Sunsari would begin tomorrow.

With the Koshi river dividing the two sides, two ferries would transport vehicles from one bank of the river to another in Chatara, linking Rampur and Dharan.

“The design of the ferries has already been approved,” Sitaula said adding that the construction of the ferries would end within five weeks.

But the alternative route would not be ready before the Dashain festival, which starts from September 30.

However, Sitaula said that they were trying their best to reduce the 14-km long breach in the highway to around 5 km. “We are trying to repair the section of the highway so that at least 9-km of the section becomes operable within three weeks,” he added. He further said that six motor boats, each capable of ferrying 10 people at a time, would be operated in the 5-km stretch of the river.

“Two choppers of Nepal Army would airlift passengers from Kanchanpur to Inaruwa from next week. A helicopter would be able to carry 20 passengers at a time and they would operate for more than ten times a day,” he added.

Thir Bahadur GC, chief at the Disaster Management Section of the Home Ministry, said the ministry was coordinating with other ministries to expedite construction works in the flood affected region.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Nepalese National Transport Entrepreneurs said jobs of thousands of people in the transportation industry were in peril. Federation’s president Dinesh Bhandari said around 700 vehicles plying on the highway had been off the road.