The Sagarmatha highway linking Gaighat (the headquarters of Udaypur district) to Khotang’s Diktel is finally all set to come into operation twenty years after construction began on the highway, thanks to the a Bailey bridge over the Sunkoshi river.
Even though roads on either side of the Sunkoshi river were completed, the highway could not come into operation due to the absence of a bridge over the river. The Department of Roads (DoR) said it is wrapping up construction of the highway in a week’s time with the aim of connecting Udayapur’s Gaighat with Khotang district.
The Shah-Sagarmatha-Indreni joint venture is responsible for constructing the Bailey bridge.
“The Bailey bridge will come into operation in a week’s time,” said Sunil Karki, a representative of the construction company. “Construction work is in the final stage.”
The Shah-Sagarmatha-Indreni joint venture had won the contract worth Rs 8 million to construct the Bailey bridge as well as construction of the road section leading up to the Koshi river from Udayapur.
The bridge will be built within the stipulated date, according to technician Bishnu Sunar. The 50 metres long Bailey bridge is the second longest of its kind in the country. The longest Bailey bridge is constructed over the Budhi Ganga River in Bajura district, Sunar said.
“The Gaighat-Diktel road will come into operation once the construction of the Bailey bridge has been completed,” DoR’s Road Project chief Binod Prasad Sapkota said, adding that direct road access between Gaighat and Diktel “is simply unattainable in the absence of the bridge.” The road will be fully operational by mid-February, added Sapkota.
The construction of the road began twenty years ago to link Diktel, the headquarters of Khotang with Gaighat of Udayapur via Kadmaha of Saptari district as part of the East-West highway. In 1994, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Adhikari had inaugurated the construction work at Bokse in Gaighat.
The track linking Gaighat to Phoksingtar in Aaptar VDC was opened two years ago. The Road Project Office was commissioned to build the road with direct involvement of the government. The track ,however, has been poorly managed. Although the government prioritised the construction of the track, serious budget crunch adversely affected construction work, according to a project official.
Smooth transportation in the hilly areas of the district is virtually impossible without the Bailey bridge over the Koshi river, experts say. People in the northern hills of Udayapur and in the southern parts of Khotang have been facing serious difficulties in commuting and trading during the rainy season.
“Although the track was opened two years ago, the construction of the Bailey bridge will ease transportation during the rainy seasons as well,” said Tulasi Rai, a resident of Aaptar.
The 156 kilometre long Sagarmatha Highway has been constructed with the primary aim of linking Diktel with the national road network, and is likely to benefit people from 35 VDCs in southern Khotang and a dozen VDCs in northern Udaypur.