The much-awaited improvement of the Narayanghat-Mugling highway has formally begun. The key route connecting the country’s eastern and western parts with Pokhara and Kathmandu is being widened under the Nepal-India Regional Trade and Transport Project which is expected to cut travel time considerably.
The World Bank has provided a Rs3 billion aid package for the project. The government had constructed the road with Chinese assistance four decades ago.
The Narayanghat-Mugling highway experiences the heaviest traffic load in the country, accounting for 90 percent of Nepal’s total international trade traffic. More than 20,000 vehicles ply the highway every day.
The project will upgrade and expand a 33-km section of the Narayanghat-Mugling road to Asian Highway standard and address road safety, axle load control and environmental sustainability issues along the trade corridor.
The road will be expanded to a double-lane road with a width of 9 to 11 metres.
The current width of the road is 5.5 metres.
After the completion of the project, the travel time from Narayanghat to Mugling will be slashed to 30 minutes from the present 1 hour. The heavy congestion on the road has led to a number of accidents.
The project will be upgraded in three phases, and three India-Nepal joint venture companies have been contracted to implement the project. Project officials said that each contractor has been awarded a 10-12 kilometre stretch. As per the agreement, contractors are required to complete the project by April 2017.
Hari Das Koirala, the project chief, said that survey work for widening the road has formally begun. The upgradation will be started from Aaptari in Chitwan.
The road will be widened up to 11 metres from Aaptari to Jugedi and up to 9 metres till Mugling. Sections of the highway which lie on difficult terrain will be widened up to 7 metres.
The first phase of the project (10 kilometres) has been awarded to a joint-venture between BLA of India and Shrestha Construction Hetauda. The second phase has been awarded to Wood Hill Company of India and Lama Constructions of Nepal. The third phase (12 kilometres) will be constructed by Supreme Constructions of India and Rautaha Nepal.
The worn-out road has been patched up several times and has not been able to handle the growing traffic. The Roads Department has been spending more than Rs5 million annually to repair the route, but the work has not been of very good quality. The project said that the construction would be completed in the stipulated time.