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Road rage


SUNIR PANDEY


If he is remembered for nothing else, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai would like to leave his mark on Nepal's capital with his ambitious road expansion drive. But he is finding that demolishing buildings was the easy part, coordinating between various government departments and rebuilding the roads are much more difficult.

A year after bulldozers tore through the narrow roads up Lajimpat and Gairi Dhara, some of them are being blacktopped. But Kathmandu is still looking like it has been struck by a mega-earthquake and the streets are enveloped in a perpetual pall of yellow dust.

PICS: THOMAS BELL
Facing flak for the slow reconstruction, Minister for Physical Planning, Works, and Transportation Hridayesh Tripathi took a group of engineers and journalists to inspect the progress.Tripathi admitted work was slow, but that road-expansion was top priority for the coalition.

So far, only parts of two priority areas have been blacktopped: Kamal Pokhari-Gaushala and the Sital Niwas-Baluwatar road. Work started on Wednesday to tarmac the Bhagwati Bahal-Bhatbhateni stretch.

There are still some houses that have refused to be torn down, and there are bottlenecks near the Russian, Chinese, French, American, and Japanese embassies which have refused to give an inch.

On one stretch from Sano Gaucharan to Sifal Chaur, half the road is taken up by debris, while the water mains below the other half have been ravaged by traffic. As a result, the road is obscured by a fog of dust and turns into a river of sludge when water is supplied once a week.

Rajan Sarki was forced to close his shoe shop near Maligaun alley because the hut in which it was rented was torn down. "The rent here is higher, and my old patrons don't yet know that I have shifted here," he says. Bakeries, groceries, and meat shops have been similarly affected, not just by the move but also by dust.

The government is keen to finish laying down water and sewage pipes and moving electricity poles over the winter before blacktopping the roads. Altogether 95km of roads have been earmarked for re-construction, but the Kathmandu Valley Town Development Committee (KVTDC) wants to increase it to at least 116km.

TOP PRIORITY: The government has earmarked the above roads for immediate blacktopping (brown: widened roads, black: blacktopped sections).
"There is no end to the number of roads that need to be widened," says Ram Prasad Shrestha, an engineer of KVTDC. "We had picked up speed during the early part of the drive, but recently things have slackened because of the uncertainty over the budget."

Although most people in Kathmandu credit the Bhattarai government of "at least doing something", among those who have lost property and haven't got compensation there is festering anger. The cost of tearing down and widening roads has already exceeded Rs 1 billion, and completing the blacktopping will cost another Rs 5 billion, and that does not include compenstation.

Read also:
Bigger, broader, and better by Dasain?, SUNIR PANDEY
The government's no-nonsense approach to road expansion is up against diplomatic pressures



1. Armugam
This was begun during PKD's tenure and continued with more vigour by BRB. No surprise here, they do what they know best. 
Demolition, not just physical, of each and every sector around us has been rendered useless. And, sadly, this will continue to remain so for many more years to come.   

Armugam


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LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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