The 1,776 kilometres long highway connects 215 settlements of 26 districts. It starts from Chiyo Bhanjyang of Panchthar district in the far-east and runs up to Jhulaghat of Baitadi district in the far-west of the country. The highway construction is not gaining momemntum due to various problems, including lack of coordination among the Ministry of Forests and Environment, the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation and others.
The major problems include plans of constructing other projects on the highway alignment, unavailability of construction materials and the cumbersome process involved in getting permission for cutting trees on the right of way of the highway, according to the Mid-hills Highway Project Directorate. Directorate chief Deepak KC said the local bodies have tightened the provisions regarding construction materials mining and transportation, which has hampered in the highway construction works.
According to him, the Project Directorate has already informed the related Ministry about this problem. “The government should make special provision for the smooth and easy supply of construction materials for the national pride projects,” KC said. Although 344 kilometers of the highway has already been blacktopped and 68 bridges have been built, the highway boundary has not yet been fixed due to the problem in land acquisition. According to KC, people are voluntarily providing land for the construction of the highway now but any sort of problem might arise in future in terms of land acquisition.
“The people are providing land now as they are excited due to the construction of major roadway in their locality, but problems might come up in future, if they demand compensation at some point in time,” he expressed his qualms. A study is ongoing regarding the two big hydroelectricity projects- Sunkoshi and Budhigandaki – which lie right on the alignment of the Pushpalal highway. KC said it looks like both these reservoir-type projects are going to impact the highway.
For example, construction works are not allowed to a certain height along the river valley where these projects are being constructed. But the track of the Pushpalal highway runs below the permitted height through these river valleys. Problem has been encountered in the construction on 200 kilometres section of the highway in Ramchhap, Sindhupalchok, Sindhuli, Gorkha and Dhading districts due to this reason. The Highway Project is of the view that the other projects that were planned after the highway project should take this difficulty into account and allow the highway construction to take place.
The Project has urged the government to clearly define the boundary of the highway and demarcate its alignment. Similarly, it has called for making provisions so that the local levels would have an obligation to allow the mining of construction materials required for the highway in their area. Project chief KC demanded that whether the hydroelectricity projects are going to be constructed or not should be determined and if they are to be constructed the area to be affected by these projects should be determined.
However, KC said works have been moved ahead so as to complete the construction of the highway within the deadline in spite of the 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 works were 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 deadline for the construction of the highway is four years. The construction of the highway is being 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.
Once completed, the Pushpalal Mid Hill Highway is expected to serve as the alternative to the existing East-West highway that mainly runs through the Tarai region. The Pushpalal highway runs through the hilly region of the country from east to west. The government announced the Pushpalal highway as the ‘National Pride Project’ seven years back although its construction had begun six years before that. Around 1,000 kilometres of this highway already existed in the form of old roadways. RSS