January 28: The Department of Roads is planning to stop planning for the construction of new motorable bridges for a few years and focus on completing the bridges which have already begun construction and those bridges whose designs have been approved.
The department took such a decision because there are already a large number of bridges under construction. At present, the number of bridges that are under construction and whose design have been approved is more than 1,560 across the country.
While the number of bridges is increasing each year, the budget available for bridge construction is diminishing. According to Director General of the Department of Roads, Keshav Kumar Sharma, the bridges which are currently under construction will be given priority in the coming years.
“New bridges are added every year in the annual programme of the government as per the demand. This has only delayed the construction of the bridges due to the problems of managing resources and manpower,” said Sharma. The department has set a target to complete 300 bridges in the current fiscal year.
Deepak Bhattarai, Chief of Bridge Division, said that the budget allocation for bridges is decreasing every year. “In the current fiscal year, Rs 18 billion is required for the construction the bridges while only Rs 4.57 billion has been allocated,” he said.
According to Bhattarai, Rs 14 billion is still required to complete the under construction bridges. “The budget is lacking every year,” he said adding, “The government had allocated only Rs 2.90 billion for such bridges in the last fiscal year also, while the expenses were Rs 13 billion.”
As per the Department, around Rs 20 billion is necessary for the completion of the 149 under construction bridges whose designs have been approved in the current fiscal year. According to preliminary data from the Department, about 50 bridges have been constructed in the current fiscal year.
Former Secretary at the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport Tulsi Sitaula argues that the number of motorable bridges is already high.
“Taking decisions hastily without prioritizing has increased the responsibility and also increased the difficulty in completing the construction of the bridges. It is necessary to prioritize the current investment by studying the status of the existing bridges.”