Locals bemoan delay in Sunkoshi bridge construction

Okhaldhunga, May 29:

People of Udaypur, Okhaldhunga and Khotang districts feel more miserable than ever as the Sunskoshi river begins swelling with the onset of the rainy season. Keeping an eye on the swelling river, they begin criticising the authorities concerned for not beginning the construction of a bridge over the river.

The government has been allocating budget every year for the last five years for the construction of the bridge, but the authorities concerned have not even started the construction work, citing the lack of suitable technology and competent engineers.

Kamal Raj Pandey, deputy director of the Department of Roads, said, “Three years ago, the government had signed a contract with Waiba Construction for the construction of the bridge. “The department had even handed about Rs 10,000,000 to the contractor to begin construction. But, we couldn’t give final design of the bridge to the contractor due to the lack of competent engineers,” he said. According to him, the department could not come up with a suitable design during the first survey.

Recently, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation has offered technical assistance for the construction of the bridge, he said. “They have offered technical support for designing and supervising the bridge,” he said, adding that the agency has already sent an engineer for observing the site.

Delay in construction of the bridge has hampered business activities, transportation and movement of people and caused loss of lives and property.

Twenty-one people died and many went missing when a boat capsized in the river last July. Three schoolchildren of the Harkapur Secondary School dived to death in the rainy season last year, according to Thakurnath Adhikari, stand-in headmaster of the school.

Locals lay a bridge over the river in winter. But it cannot withstand the rainy season. People hire porters to transport goods. According to Madan Katuwal, a member of the Ghurmin Bazaar Management Committee, the delay has hampered business transaction of about Rs 20,000,000 every day. Once constructed, the bridge will connect Ghurmibazaar of Udaypur with Harkapur of Okhaldhunga district.