Apart from Araniko Highway leading to the Chinese border, all the roads and bridges in the 12 districts affected by the Great Earthquake except are safe, the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport has confirmed. The ministry declared the infrastructure to be secure after conducting an assessment in all the major affected areas.
“Apart from Araniko Highway, all the other roads and bridges are safe,” said Devendra Karki, joint secretary at the ministry. “The damage to other roads was minimal and it has been taken care of.” The Balefi-Barhabise stretch on Araniko Highway, in particular, was severely affected.
Despite the serious damage, Araniko Highway is back in operation. The road has sustained major damage at multiple places, and motor traffic has been limited to a single lane on a number of stretches. The epicentre of the quake was located in Gorkha district, but Sindhupalchok where Araniko Highway is situated bore the major brunt.
The roads in Sindhupalchok are located at a higher altitude and so they are more vulnerable to landslides, the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport said.
According to Karki, a feeder road leading to Barpak, Gorkha, where a 15-km stretch remains blocked, and a section of the Narayanghat-Mugling highway , where landslides occur frequently, are still problem areas.
Meanwhile, Araniko Highway requires major restoration. A 25-km stretch needs to be completely rebuilt, the ministry said. The cost of constructing a road comes to Rs25 million per kilometre. The cost varies based on the standard desired.
“China has offered to rebuild the road. It has made a commitment to develop Araniko Highway to Asian standard,” Karki said. He added that a Chinese team had conducted a survey. “Around one year ago, a Chinese team had conducted a survey lasting almost three months. A follow-up survey was conducted after landslides obstructed the road at Jure in August 2014,” Karki said.
According to the ministry, it has not been spending much money on the highway in the belief that China would soon start upgradation and construction tasks on it. “Since it looked like China would be starting work soon, the government has been making relatively small investments,” Karki said, adding that the improvement project was expected to be expedited.