January 25: The widening of Narayangarh-Butwal road section along the East-West Highway has so far made only 23 percent progress with less than eight months left for the extended deadline to expire.
The road widening project was supposed to be completed by August 2022 but the progress remains dismal even though it has been four years since the project started.
According to the China State Construction Engineering Corporation Limited, which is undertaking the expansion work, the widening of the road has been delayed due to complications brought out by COVID-19, tree felling, relocation of electric poles and mobilization of equipment.
Meanwhile, the Department of Roads had earlier concluded that the work was delayed due to the non-cooperation of the government, construction companies and local municipalities.
The department had even sought explanation from the Chinese construction company -- China State Construction Engineering Corporation Limited – as the progress was not satisfactory.
A team of experts from the DoR led by Director General Arjun Jung Thapa had visited the site for inspection in early November and deduced that the construction was delayed due to three main reasons.
“It was seen that there was a delay in the work to be done by the Nepal government as well. The local municipality prohibited on buying of construction materials like aggregates, gravel and soil despite paying royalty to the local municipality. In addition, there were problems with the management of the construction company, leading to the delay in completion of wok on time,” Thapa had told New Business Age in an earlier interview.
Even now, the electric poles on the road that needs to be widened have not been removed. Thapa said that he did not get any help from the local municipality.
An agreement was reached between the Department of Roads and the Chinese company to complete the 114 km Narayangadh-Butwal road upgrading work in 3.5 years in January 2018.
The 114 kilometres of road stretch was divided in two sections while awarding the contract through a global bidding process. The China State Construction Engineering Corporation Limited had won the tender bids of both sections considering its proposal to construct the road section at the minimum base rate. However, several complaints have been received on part of the construction company regarding the dillydallying of the project.
The department earlier warned to terminate the contract arguing that the travelers and vehicles have faced several issues including difficulties in travel, air pollution and others problems due to carelessness of the construction company. The locals in the affected area have also suffered while road accidents have increased.
As the contract agreement ended on August 7, the government has extended the deadline for one more year at the request of the construction company.
The expansion of this road section is estimated to cost around Rs 16 billion. The project is running with concessional loan provided by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).