Lack of bridges makes half of rural road network ‘defunct’

Kathmandu, November 3:

At least 4,000 bridges connecting over 21,000-km rural road network have been awaiting immediate construction.

Construction technicians have urged the government to give high priority on construction of these bridges so as to make the maximum use of the rural road network, half of which is already defunct due to the lack of bridges.

“An exclusively dedicated Rural Road Bridge Programme is necessary for authentic special planning, prioritizing, and fixing the bridge capacity, technical norms and standards as well as for fixing uniform implementation procedures and executing bodies,” said Artha Tuladhar, a research consultant on construction of trail bridges.

He said that the government has to immediately construct 4,000 such bridged to take advantage of the already constructed 21,000-km rural road network.

He stressed that an authentic institution under Ministry of Local Development is necessary to fix the exact location and capacity of a rural road bridge considering the geology as well as technical and socio-economic aspects of the area.

Tuladhar also pointed out that rural road construction and bridge construction requires close coordination as there are different categories of rural roads which may need bridges of different capacities.

There are 521 suspension bridges, 2,483 suspended bridges, 140 steel truss bridges and 236 other types of bridges in trails and tracks of Nepal.

Around 20 national and international agencies are involved in the trail bridge construction in Nepal. In addition to extended support of Swiss government, World Bank and Asian Devlopment Banks are showing interest in extending their hands in teh construction of rural roads in various districts.

Prof Deepak Bhatarai, the principal of the Nepal Engineering College, said that the government should prioritise this issue. “Not all the bridges that are required can be constructed immediately. A system of prioritizing on bridge construction will remain challenging in the present socio-political context,” he said.

He also said trail bridge building in Nepal is also suffering from the lack of trained manpower

and low retention of skilled personnel.

Dr Jagadish Chandra Pokhrel, the vice-chairman of the National Planning Commission, however, added that budget must not be a constraint in development activities. He also urged engineers to come up with unconventional technologies to provide access to rural areas through rural bridges.