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“Fast-track, airport in our lifetime”

By Prajwal Shrestha
Local people from Nijgadh organised walkathon from Nijgadh to Kathmandu demanding immediate construction of the Kathmandu-Nijgadh fast track and international airport in Nijgadh. As the government is delaying construction of the fast-track and Nijgadh airport, to put pressure to the government, local people have organised walkathon with the slogan of construction of the fast-track and airport during their own lifetime.
The government has decided to construct the fast-track by itself but it has not done necessary homework to construct it. Therefore, the local people are worried from the delay made by the government.
Former finance secretary Rameshwar Khanal has opined that the government should immediately construct the fast-track and airport even by stopping salary increment of the civil servicemen. The civil servicemen can wait for some years from increment of their salary and facilities if such project of national glory will be constructed from their contribution, Khanal has argued.
If the government will make strong commitment, there is no problem of fund. Earlier, this columnist had argued that if additional airport construction tax is imposed on every passenger flying to and from Kathmandu and every vehicle running in highways, the government can easily manage necessary fund to construct the fast-track and an international airport.
The previous government has decided to construct Budhigandaki hydropower project from local fund. For this purpose, the government has imposed tax worth five rupees on each litre of petro-product. Within several months, the government has been able to raise billions of rupees for this project. Unfortunately, the government has not done necessary homework to construct the project. However, this is an example that we can construct big project without support from foreigners. We should be clear, without vested interests foreigners will not come to support us specially in infrastructural projects. Furthermore, to relay on India in such projects of national glory will be a serious mistake for Nepal like country. From past experiences, we should learn lessons. Therefore, in key projects, we have to manage funding by ourselves.
Meanwhile, among bad news, one good news is that the Nepal Army has decided to construct an alternative international airport to be operated during the emergency period in Charnath Bhiman in Sindhuli. However, this will belong to the Nepal Army as the Army is constructing the airport on the 415 bighas of land owned by the Army. Currently, we have only one international airport equipped with single runway. When the Turkish Air crashed at the runway, for more than a week, the airport was closed. Let’s hope, the NA will construct the airport on time.
As there is urgency in completing key infrastructural projects, hurdles are seen on the part of construction. Contractors are found bedding low price and delaying the project by showing different reasons and claiming compensation amount. Due to which many of the projects have been delayed for years. For example, Melamchi drinking water project was delayed for years and even the contractors were changed time and again. Therefore, the government should introduce new procedure for bidding by disqualifying low-bidders taking into consideration that the intention of the low bidders is good. While preparing the detailed project report, the project cost plus 20 percent of profit should be assured for the contractors and bidding below ten percent of the project cost should be disqualified. If did so, the contractors will work for the profit. Similarly, strong punishment mechanism should be introduced to avoid delayed construction and compensation practice should be ended. Otherwise, many projects in pipeline cannot be completed during our lifetime.

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