Even for those who find bus ride a fun experience, traveling on the Karnali Highway can be an utterly horrible. The highway, which is just a narrow track that connects Karnali with the outside world, is deteriorating with time, but little is being done to improve the road.
Even in 30 months since the concerned authorities launched the drive to upgrade the highway, also called as “the highway of death” due to high rate of fatalities it sees, there has been no sign of improvement.
“Despite all the dangers, we have no choice,” said a local of Jumla, Buddhi Bista. “While traveling on the road, we remember the god all the time. The fear of death never leaves us,” he added.
While the people in the region are upset with the road condition, technicians involved in the project say that both the government and the contractors are responsible for the sorry state of the highway. According to them, the road construction work is being carried out in eight different places in the region but at no place is the progress satisfactory.
According to a technician Kamal Bahadur Bom, even when the contractors do not finish their work on time, the authority is helpless. “For these road projects, contractors were supposed to complete the work within 18 months, but even after 30 months, the project is far from being over,” he said.
Bom said that the contractors get deadline extensions without much fuss. “They should have been fined. However, in my knowledge, no such action has been taken against contractors. Instead, they are easily allowed to extend the contract.”
Not abiding by the policies and not sticking to the original plan is the biggest hurdle in such developmental works, said Bom.
Everyday, thousands of people pass through Karnali Highway in passenger buses that frequently make headlines after meeting with accidents. “However, no serious steps are being taken to curb the accidents,” said Bista.
According to him, the highway needs safety rails on either side of the road. Similarly, bridges are needed at some places urgently.
According to a road consultant Tara Puri, the workforce deployed for the projects are not skilled enough. Similarly, many of such projects are likely to be awarded to unqualified contractors. “Construction of road is a serious thing. It needs experts, good technicians, and good materials. However, we seem to lack all of these,” Puri said.
Meanwhile, Raju Mahat, president of Association of Construction Entrepreneurs, suggested that contractors who are poor performers must be blacklisted. “Until and unless the workers who are not doing their job properly are blacklisted and punished, there would not be real progress,” he said.
UCPN (Maoist) cadre based in Kalikot, Durga Bahadur Rawat, said that hundreds of people have lost their lives on the road accidents in the highway. However, not all of the families of the deceased have been provided relief.