By PR Pradhan
Local residents in the Chabhil-Jorpati area organised a violent agitation last week by capturing the road disrupting vehicular movement in the area protesting against the authorities’ reluctance to black-top the road. The road expansion project was halted due to the negligence of the contractors and government officials and local residents have been suffering from the dust on sunny days and muddy roads on rainy days. The locals had taken under control the contractors, later they released them after an agreement for starting road black-topping works from 12 May.
The police, instead of taking action against the concerned contractors for delaying construction works, tried to suppress the agitators, which made the agitators more furious and they started violent acts including tyre burning and setting ablaze of vehicles. Later, the agitation ended after an agreement for completing the construction project without any delay.
The road construction contractors are blaming the government for not completing the drainage construction works on time. Accordingly, some locals had knocked the Court’s door against the demolishing of their houses in the name of road expansion. The Court had given the verdict that the government should pay compensation equivalent to the fresh value of the land and building to the locals while acquiring their property and land. As the government was unable to pay compensation, the construction works were halted. This is an example of introducing projects without proper study and planning.
Baburam Bhattarai, when he was the PM, introduced the road expansion project in the Valley. Millions of rupees have been spent under this project. Whether the expanded roads could end the traffic jam problem in Kathmandu permanently, Bhattarai, an architectural engineer has no answers. However, thousands of local people have lost their valuable property under Baburam’s project.
Even today, even in Europe, ancient cities have very narrow roads, however, the roads are well managed. Hong Kong is one of the cities developed after the British India colonized Chinese land. Even today, roads in Hong Kong are narrow, however, they have been managed well. Why Kathmandu needed wide roads, perhaps, Bhattarai wanted to see new buildings by destroying the heritage of the city! Otherwise, the leaders could think about shifting the political capital to a new place nearby Kathmandu by keeping the Valley a heritage capital. From the funds spent in expansion of Kathmandu roads, a new and planned city could be developed nearby Kathmandu.
Talking about the Chabhil-Jorpati road, it could be introduced as a one-way road by improving the Bagmati corridor road without capturing the local residents’ property.
There is a lack of coordination among the different government departments. After the government introduced its road expansion project, first, shifting of electricity and telephone polls had to be initiated. Also, drainage works had to be completed before starting the expansion works. The works were delayed by none other than the government agencies’ themselves and their irresponsible attitude.
The court has given a verdict ensuring individuals’ right on their private property. After the court decision, the government should review its own policies regarding acquiring such private property. Such problems have been witnessed in almost all new government projects. If the government will pay an attractive compensation in accordance to the fresh value, locals will become ready to support the government projects, but the government mentality of capturing private property without paying compensation or paying a nominal amount as compensation will surely disturb the government projects in the days to come as well.
The government authorities have to develop the mentality of paying higher prices for the land and houses of any of the project affected families so that the affected family could go to another place happily. Of course, if anybody has encroached upon the government property illegally, the government should initiate action against these culprits, but the government should never capture private property forcefully. Therefore, while developing a detailed project report of any of the projects, the government has to allot the amount double than the actual price for acquiring private properties. May be, it may increase the project cost, but when brokers can steal six billion rupees as commission while purchasing two wide-body aircraft, why not the government become ready to pay a comfortable compensation to the individuals?
Many projects of national pride remain pending. Why the government recognized these projects with high priority, that should also be evaluated. If construction works cannot be started on time, why the government announces priority projects? This is an open side of the government’s inefficiency which the people have seen. The Kathmandu-Nuwakot-Rasuwagari road is the main road in trading with China. The Kathmandu-Nuwakot portion of road had to be completed several years ago, but the road is still under construction for years. Due to the negligence of those non-visionary leaders in the government, the corrupt officials in the Road Department and the corrupt attitude of the construction contractors, the construction works have been delayed. It is learnt that the house owner of Pushpakamal Dahal “Prachanda” is one among the contractors of the Kathmandu-Nuwakot road project. He had to be blacklisted by the government. As he is now Dahal’s man, the government has been unable to take any action against him. We don’t know, when this road project is going to be completed.
Political leaders had put strong pressure for reopening of the Tatopani-Khasha trade route. The Chinese side has timely completed the construction of a dry-port there and it is also giving final touches to the Friendship Bridge, which was damaged, in the Nepal-China border in Tatopani. In the Nepal side, the government is yet to complete the road damaged by the Bhotekoshi floods. Earlier, it was expected that this route would come into operation by the first week of May. It has been delayed due to the government’s own negligence. To avoid such hurdles in completion of the infrastructural projects, first of all, the government has to review its public expenditure laws and regulations. The existing traditional laws and regulations have given enough space to manipulate the government funds.
When the government showed reluctance in completing the projects, the locals in Chabahil-Jorpati area, who have become victims of the project, have just alerted the government. We commend them. Locals in other affected project areas should also wake up against the corrupt attitude of the political leaders, government officials and contractors.