Dispute over alignment a roadblock to construction of Midhill Highway «

Dispute over alignment a roadblock to construction of Midhill Highway

Dispute over alignment of the road at various sections of the Midhill (Pushpalal) Highway has emerged as an impediment to the timely construction of the national pride project.
The dispute regarding the alignment at some section is because of the existence of projects undertaken by another Ministry while at other sections the locals there want the highway to pass by their area against what already has been designed. Discussions are underway to find a way out as the national pride project Budhigandaki Multipurpose Project and the Midhill Highway intersect. It is said nearly 70 kilometres of the highway in Dhading and Gorkha would be submerged once the Budhigandaki Multipurpose Hydroelectricity Project’s dam is constructed.
Chief of the Midhill (Pushpalal) Highway Project Directorate, Deepak KC said, besides Gorkha and Dhading, the locals in Lamjung and other districts too have been demanding to change the highway alignment.
According to him, at several places the locals are demanding that the highway should touch their settlement while at other places they are calling for changing its alignment out of concern that they would be displaced as the highway passes through their farmland and house. Directorate’s chief KC said the highway would be constructed within the deadline except at the places where there is dispute over the road alignment. “Vehicles would ply on the entire highway by fiscal year 2022-23, the deadline for the construction of the highway,” he said. Although 344 kilometres of the highway has already been blacktopped and 68 bridges have been built, the highway boundary has not been fixed due to problem of land acquisition. A study is ongoing regarding the two big hydel projects- Sunkoshi and Budhigandaki – which lie right on the alignment of the Pushpalal Highway. KC said it looks like both those reservoir-type projects were going to impact the highway.
Track of the Pushpalal Highway runs below the permitted height through these river valleys. Problem has surfaced in construction of 200 kilometres section of the highway in Ramechhap, Sindhupalchowk, Sindhuli, Gorkha and Dhading districts due to this reason. The highway project has urged the government to clearly define the boundary of the highway and demarcate its alignment. Project Chief KC demanded that whether the hydroelectricity projects were going to be constructed or not should be determined and if they were to be constructed the area to be affected by these projects had to be identified. However, KC said works were in progress to complete the construction of the highway within the deadline in spite of various problems.
According to him, so far 344 kilometres of the highway has been blacktopped, contract has been awarded for the construction of 581 kilometres and construction work was underway. Contract for construction of 492 kilometers of the highway is yet to be made. Sixty-eight bridges along the highway have been constructed so far and 24 bridges are under construction. The construction of the highway has been undertaken by dividing it into five sections.
The project has set up its site offices in Panchthar, Kavre, Gorakha, Parbat and Dailekh to oversee the construction in these five sections. It was stated in the National Transportation Policy, 2058 BS that a highway would be constructed from the east to the west of the country through the mid-hilly region as an alternative to the East-West Highway. Based on this policy, the government had started the construction of this highway naming it the Midhill (Pushpalal) Highway in fiscal year 2064/65. Its starting point is at Chiyobhanjyang in Panchthar district in the east and its finishing point is in Jhulaghat of Baitadi district in the west. The government declared this highway project as the national-pride project seven years back and implemented it on priority basis since. About 1,000 kilometres of the highway’s total length is already existing road in operation while nearly 879 kilometres of the highway would have to be constructed new. The sections of the highway which are already in operation are also being upgraded to the highway standard, according to Karki. Nearly 10 million Nepalis will benefit upon completion of the highway. The 1,776 kilometre highway connects 215 settlements of 26 districts.
Once completed, the Pushpalal Highway is expected to serve as alternative to the existing East-West Highway that mainly runs through the Tarai region. Pushpalal Highway runs through the hilly region of the country from the east to the west.