The Nepal Army in August 2017 started construction of the Kathmandu-Tarai highway with a plan to complete it in four years. As the project is far from complete in August 2021, its deadline has been extended to July 2024.
The delay in preparing and approving the detailed project report prompted the military to further extend the deadline to December 2024. Even though the deadline has been extended twice, it is uncertain whether the highway will enter service by the end of 2024.
The slow construction works coupled with the uncertainty of the budget allocation could further delay the completion of the project. The National Defense Force, which is managing its construction, said it will complete 21% of the project’s work by the end of the current fiscal year, which marks five years since construction began. The army must complete more than 25% of the work each year to meet the deadline.
“We can complete the project works by December 2024 if there are no problems,” Brigadier General Bikash Pokharel, head of the Kathmandu-Tarai highway, told a conference on Tuesday. hurry.
The Khokana area is the entry point of the project. However, the government was unable to acquire 411 ropanis of land for the highway and another 300 ropanis for the construction of a parking lot and a port. Last year, a committee under the National Planning Commission tried to convince local residents to sell their land, but failed. Similarly, the efforts of parliamentary committees have not yielded positive results either.
Residents have refused to hand over their land, saying five different projects are underway in the Khokana area that could ultimately displace them from their land, army officials say. In addition to the highway, a power transmission line, an outer ring road, and the Bagmati Corridor pass through the area. Likewise, the government is also developing Khokana as a smart city.
“It is up to the government to decide this question,” Pokharel said.
The military has spent 25 billion rupees in the past four and a half years since it began work on the project, with the government allocating 8.92 billion rupees in the current fiscal year alone. According to the detailed project report, the estimated cost of the highway, which will meet Asian standards, is Rs 175 billion with value added tax and Rs 213 billion with contingencies and service charges.
The army will need Rs 188 billion over the next three years to complete the project, which means the government needs to allocate an average of around Rs 62 billion per year. The amount is more than the total budget of the Ministry of Defence, which stands at 51 billion rupees, for the current financial year.
The army said it would need a minimum of 40 billion rupees over the next financial year to build tunnels and other infrastructure for the project.
The highway has three tunnels with a total length of 6.415 km which will be constructed in three different sections of the highway. Similarly, out of 86 bridges along the highway, 16 have been classified as special bridges requiring international contractors for construction. The expressway is expected to reduce the travel time from Kathmandu to Nijgadh, Bara, to one hour.
“We have already communicated with the Ministry of Defense and Finance,” Pokharel said. “We were told that the government would provide the necessary budget.”