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Bhaskar Thapa, 49

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013


Bhaskar Thapa had risen up the ranks in his profession with diligence and professionalism. His specialisation in tunnel technology would have stood his homeland in good stead as it prepares for major investments in infrastructure. But on Tuesday, 18 June Bhaskar collapsed in San Fransisco after a game of tennis and died at age 49.

In his 17 year career, Bhaskar had gained experience in underground infrastructure used in hydropower plants, multi-lane highway tunnels, and underground urban mass transit. Tunnel technology is risky both technically, as well as financially. Bhaskar had special expertise in risk management, rock mechanism, landslides and seismic resistance. He was the chief engineer of the $400 million Caldecott Highway Tunnel under Berkeley Hills. It was a challenging project because of the soft rock strata for which he had to use special techniques to re-enforce the arches and also make the tunnel resistant to earthquakes.

The project had avoided using dynamite and relied on German-made Roadheader equipment, tunneling from both ends, and there were celebrations recently when the two tunnels met in the middle with absolute precision. The tunnel will be inaugurated in September and Bhaskar Thapa will be remembered for his skill, hard work and his friendly personality. And since it would also be the time he would have turned 50, relatives from around the world were planning to gather in San Francisco, including his parents, Bhekh Bahadur Thapa and mother, Rita Thapa, his sister Tejshree from Brussels and Manjushree from Toronto. It is truly tragic that Bhaskar will neither hear the praises at the tunnel inauguration ceremony, nor take part in the happy family reunion on his birthday.

Bhaskar comes from a family of notables. His father is a veteran diplomat, his mother is a public health specialist, one sister works for an international human rights organisation and another is Nepal’s best-known writer of international repute. Bhaskar was thinking about how he could bring his professional experience to use in Nepal in the construction of hydropower projects, highways, and railways. That dream was taken away this week.

Kanak Dixit

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