Multi-million dollar project in limbo

Kathmandu, March 7

The fate of the country’s first ever multi-million dollar tunnel construction project hangs in the balance after Nepali Army restricted the builder from importing emulsion explosive.

Japanese contractor company — Hazama Ando Corporation — wrote a letter to Nagdhunga Tunnel Construction Project office yesterday seeking approval for the import of explosives and accessories.

The Japanese company said although Nepali Army insisted it to buy NA explosives required to blast rocks, there was no proven evidence that NA explosives were as good as Indian explosives, said Joint Secretary, Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport, Shyam Kharel, who heads the NTCP.

He said forcing HAC to buy explosives produced by NA could hike the procurement cost by at least Rs 70 million and could also delay the project completion.

According to Kharel, HAC said it was compelled to consider importing explosives from India, as there was no evidence of the quality of NA explosives for blasting rocks.

HAC also stated that Nepali Army did not produce explosive accessories, such as detonators and chords, and that could complicate the procurement process.

Kharel said the company stood firm on its decision to import tried and tested emulsion explosive and accessories with the employer’s assistance.

Clause 4303.3 (0) of the Technical Specification states that the employer shall provide reasonable assistance to the contractor to apply for any permit, licence or approval required to import, deliver, store or use of explosives and accessories.

The Japanese company argues that it should not be restrained from importing explosives in this era of globalisation.

NA Spokesperson Brig Gen Bigyan Dev Pandey, however, said NA had demonstrated the efficacy of its explosives to the representatives of the contractor company a few months ago and they had not complained about the quality of the explosives then.

He said NA had provided its explosives to 24 other projects and it was ready to provide the required amount of explosives to HAC through one window system to help the contractor company complete the project on time. He said the NA was only reminding the contractor company that according to the government’s policy all companies needed to go through NA channel to procure explosives.

“If the government changes its policy and allows a particular company to buy explosives from other countries, then we will have no objection,” he added.The 2,688-metre Nagdhunga tunnel project has to be completed by April 2023.

The project is an Official Development Assistance loan project funded by the Government of Japan where JICA is the development partner providing loan assistance of JPY 16.636 billion.

The objective of the project is to improve the road condition around Nagdhunga pass by constructing a tunnel, thereby contributing to achieve the smooth transportation network between Kathmandu and other principal cities/ areas in Nepal.

Commencement of this tunnel project will be the first of its kind in Nepal. The highway will have two 2.7 km lanes, expected to reduce the time to cross Nagdhunga pass to onethird of the current time.

Currently, it takes 30 minutes to cross the pass when heading east and 20 minutes when heading west. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had laid the foundation stone of the project in October and the construction began in November 2019.