And now Nepal is exporting this expertise to other developing countries. There are 11 engineers and three sociologists from Ethiopia and Honduras in Nepal this month learning how bridges are made in Nepal.
With 80 per cent of the population living in rural areas, in rugged terrain, bridges are of vital importance. Without them, isolated valleys and remote villages have no way of communicating with the outside world. Ethiopia and Honduras have similar terrain and socio-economic conditions.
The Swiss aid agency, Helvetas, has been involved in training Nepali engineers in suspension bridge-building for the past 40 years. Now, Nepali companies have their own indigenous capacity to build the bridges.
"Instead of people going abroad, engineers from abroad come here to learn how to build trail bridges," explains Jan Roukema of Helvetas in Kathmandu.
Nepali engineers have learned how to build high quality bridges on tight budgets and also how to place them at the most strategically appropriate locations so that they benefit the maximum number of users.
Sashi Shah, Karnali program co-ordinator of Helvetas says, "We don't just build bridges but follow a holistic social approach. We involve the community in the construction and planning and bring down costs."
The visit from the Ethiopians and Hondurans is part of Helvetas' South-South collaboration project and will entail the engineering department at Pulchok Campus teaching the 14 participants both the technical and social aspects of trail-bridge construction in the four weeks up to 26 December.
The course covers design, planning and construction as well as ways to mobilise the community and seek government assistance. Five participants will stay on longer in Nepal and gain on-the-job field training experience.
Alem Shumiye, manager of the trail bridge program in Ethiopia told Nepali Times, "Ethiopia is similar to Nepal in terms of the need for footbridges, and we are learning a lot here."
Shah says Nepal still faces major challenges in bridge-building: governance, ensuring quality of materials and the brain drain. Last year's bridge collapse on the Bheri in which 50 people were killed was an example of what happens when quality standards drop.