Building fast track
It has been several years since a fast track road linking the capital city with the Tarai has been mooted. Such a road would contribute to shorten the distance and time required to travel the present long distance. The proposed Kathmandu-Tarai Fast Track road would be only 76 kilometers long. So far it takes several hours to traverse the long distance since the hill roads that have been built are torturous in the absence of a fast track road. This road will cut the travelling distance by about 250 km from Birgunj, the main customs point, and also be beneficial in many ways such as reducing the cost of fuel being presently wasted. The goods and products would become cheaper and their transport quicker because of the reduction in ferrying costs and time. They would also contribute to the economy of the Tarai region.
If the revenue earned is higher than the minimum assured, the government and the bidder would share the surplus equally
It appears that this road will eventually be built although there are many who are skeptical about the whole idea. The government is holding talks with an Indian bidder which is a consortium of Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Service (IL&FS) which prepared a Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the expressway. The negotiations are taking place at a fast pace and a decision could be reached in a matter of a week. The Nepal government is expected to award the project to this bidder. The government has already approved the DPR. Things look bright that this project will finally materialize as this bidder has now submitted a revised financial proposal under which it will undertake the build, own, operate and transfer modality. According to sources of the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport the negotiations will be successful. The earlier proposal of the same bidder was slammed for then it had sought a huge minimum revenue guarantee (MRG). Previously it had demanded Rs 317 billion as assurance from the government within 25 years of operation. This has come about by resorting to various means to acquire the necessary resources to reduce the MRG and the bidder reducing the minimum traffic volume of 7,500 units of vehicles per day. However, much will depend on matters like the financial mechanism and the volume of traffic on the road which is expected to play a major role in sealing the deal. If the revenue earned is higher than the minimum assured, the government and the bidder would share the surplus equally.
More features are to be added to the fast track such as a solar lighting system in the express road and widening the 76 kilometer road by an extra meter from previously planned 14 to 15 meters. It has also been decided that the road would be constructed as a top class and not the originally planned second Class Asian Highway standard. These would mean that the cost of constructing the fast track road would be more expensive by around $100 million. It is now expected that the cost of constructing this highway will be $980 million by excluding the VAT cost. Now that the controversies are being amicably resolved let us hope that the Fast Track road project linking the proposed Second International Airport in Nijgadh will be built at the earliest.
The Constituent Assembly is collecting feedback from the people on the draft constitution. The public have mainly given suggestions on federalism, forms of governance, election system with certain percent of threshold, judiciary, timely election of the local bodies and so on. People are more concerned with the proposed large number of lawmakers in the federal parliament and Pradesh assemblies. There will be over 900 lawmakers in federal parliament and Pradesh assemblies combined if the proposed strength is retained.
One of the unique suggestions coming from the people is that there must be a minimum academic qualification to become a lawmaker. People have argued that if a person is required to pass grade 10 to obtain a driving license there must be a minimum academic qualification for contesting the parliamentary or assembly elections. They have suggested that a person contesting for both the elections must possess at least a bachelor’s degree in any discipline to better understand the lawmaking processes, budgetary and financial issues, international treaties and conventions in which Nepal is a signatory.