KATHMANDU: Fast-Track, a much-discussed mega project to link the capital city to the plains of Terai seems prolonging the completion deadline owing to the slackness in the procurement of international consultant.
Sluggish procurement pace esp the selection of international consultant is impacting the overall implementation deadline of the mega project as due to the sluggish work performance the allocated budget has not been utilized properly.
Due to the lack of consultant the construction works related to the bridge and tunnels seem impaired.
The government has called the 72.5 km long Khokana- Kathmandu and Makawanpur- Bara highway the Fast- Track and has enlisted it as one of the mega projects to be completed within the 15th plan period.
This complex project is assigned to Nepal Army which has a better history in completing the project. NA is set to complete this four-lane expressway to link Kathmandu with the terai by 2024.
However, some of the constraints not within the reach of NA which got the project in 2017 are likely to prolong the construction period.
The major constraints and the attempts to address them go as below:
Land acquisition case in court
One of the major constraints the project is facing is land acquisition. Land acquisition has turned a hard nut due to the case filed in the court.
Machhe Narayan Shrestha and Deelip Putwar of Lalitpur 22 have filed a case deeming Nepal Army Head Quarter and Nepal Army Kathmandu Terai Fast Track Road Project as opponent on Feb. 2 and Feb. 3 respectively.
The writ filed as per Article 133 (2) (3) has demanded the supreme court to issue mandamus, certiorari or any order deemed apt and provide justice to the writ applicants.
Owing to the large number of cases in the court and the prevalent trend, the issue is likely to take time before it comes to final verdict; hence, it is likely to deter the construction activities.
Similarly, retaining wall is another challenge on execution of the project. The NA spokesperson Brigadier General Bigyan Dev Pandey opines that ‘re wall’ being a new technology in Nepal’s context may turn time consuming.
What’s going on?
On May 4, 2017, the Council of Ministers decided to assign the construction of Kathmandu- Terai Fast Track to Nepal Army(NA). NA is executing the task as per the assignment.
Out of 38,664 trees to be cleared from the track sites 97% have been cut down. Similarly, there have been the progress of 97% and 87% in land acquisition and soil clearance tasks.
The earthwork cutting is undergoing in the 54 kilometers of the track. Similarly, 8 base-camps have been established for the projects.
As per the provisions about the environmental compensation to be made by planting trees afforestation has taken place in 5.61 hectares. To meet the environmental standard, 25 trees should be planted for every tree cut down in the process and the NA is producing some 150 thousand nursery plants in Nijgadh and Rajdurbar. More than 5000 trees have been planted so far.
Out of 55.5 km road excluding bridges and tunnel route, formation level of 39.5% road is completed.
International Consultants to be procured soon
After leading the road construction to the final phase, NA has initiated tunnel and bridge construction.
As per the detailed project report, there will be 3 tunnels in the fast track: Mahadev Danda 3.355 km, Dhendre Danda 1.630 km and Len Danda 1.430 km.
According to the project spokesperson Pandey, the procedure for the procurement of the consultant has already been initiated.
“5 various organizations of international standard have tendered their letter of interest,” Pandey said to Khabarhub, “once the consultant is selected, it will clear the route for the construction of tunnel and bridges.”
He shared the project plan of setting the international consultants to field from 23rd June as he hoped that by then all legal procedures deemed essential in the Public Procurement Act and the Financial Regulations will be met.
This 72.5 km long four lane expressway will have 86 bridges in it. The width of the lane will be 27 meter in the plans and 25 meters in other parts of the route.
Spokesperson Pandey made it clear that the total length of the tunnels will be 6.41 km whereas the bridges will occupy 10.59km.
Allocated budget goes unspent
As the government has mentioned the project as national pride project, the government has been generous enough to allocate the required budget.
However, the record shows that Nepal Army has not been able to make expenses as predicted.
In the meantime, the estimated budget for the project has reached 175 billion from former 111 billion.
According to the record, only 1.34 billion was spent from 1.35 billion allocated in the fiscal year 2016/17.
Similarly, the expenditure made in the project was 7.63 billion and 5.73 billion in the fiscal year 2017/ 18 and 2018/19 respectively. The government had allocated 10.13 billion and 15.39 billion respectively in those financial years.
The government has allocated 15 billion rupees in the current fiscal year. By the end of first six months of the year, the project has spent only 299.8 million.
It shows the gap underlying between the budget allocation and the expenditure made in that particular year.
Slackness in consultant procurement led to budget freezing
The project spokesperson Pandey holds the slackness in the selection of the international consultant responsible for the relatively low progress and the freezing of the allocated budget.
Estimating that out of 15 billion allocated for current fiscal year only 7.3 billion will be spent by the end of the year, the project has already written to Ministry of Finance for the excess budget withdrawal.
“70% of this 175 billion rupees project will be spent in the construction of the bridges and the tunnels, the work in progress now is part of remaining 30%,” he said, “and we have completed only 10% of the latter.”
According to him, the international consultants who are still to be procured are supposed to go to the field to ensure the quality of the road as per the international standard.
Though the contractors have completed the geo-technical survey of the project, according to Brigadier General Pandey, the project cannot take momentum unless the international consultant are deployed.
“Some parts of the road are ready to be black topped,” the spokesperson of NA said, “however, without bridges we are even unable to blacktop them.”
Amidst dozens of hindrances cited as the one that may come in the way of the construction of the many like ‘excessive political representation’, ‘decision flip-flops’ seemed addressed at the decision of handing the project to NA. Provided the ones mentioned above are addressed properly on time, though a bit late the project is likely to get materialized as expected.