"Rural Road Work Is Challenging"

ASHOK KUMAR JHA, Deputy Program Coordinator for Project for Strengthening the National Rural Transport Program (SNRTP)

April 11, 2015, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol: 08 No. -19 April 10- 2015 (Chaitra 27, 2071)

Having experiences of successfully implementing RAIDP, ASHOK KUMAR JHA, deputy ProgramCoordinator for Project for Strengthening the National Rural Transport Program (SNRTP), is now working to push the project to meet the target. Jha spoke to New Spotlight on various issues. Excerpts:

How do you look at SNRTP?

This is not a project but we are taking this as a program. Our aim is to strengthen and consolidate transport at national level. Although this is a separate program, we are taking this as a follow on program of RAIDP. It is a continuation, a follow on program. SNRTP basically is a continuation follow-on of RAIDP, the third IDA operation to support Nepal’s rural transport sector in the past 15 years. This is in the asset preservation concept. Although road is an asset, we don’t have the culture of its periodic and regular maintenance. This is the reason we construct the road every year and we lose the road every year. Ultimately, the sum is zero. Construing the road and losing the same implies like pouring water in the sand. This is based on the approach of maintenance road first. Our aim is to ensure regular maintenance of District Core Road Network (DCRP), making them all weather roads. Other main target is to make the DCRP all weather through periodical maintenance. We also do regular maintenance if there are bridges, culverts along the road or rivers crossing construction. This way we want to make the roads for year-round connectivity.

What other components are in the project?

Other componentsare to upgrade the road taken up by RAIDP. We will upgrade the earthen road taken up by RAIDP as gravel and the gravel road to Bitumen surface road. Don’t get confused; we will go for Otasell as per our guidelines. We also move to divest even asphalt provided and premixed. We will use the otasil, not like used by RAIDP, but it will improve. Department of Roads has already used this in low traffic volumes roads. Our experiences have shown that volume of the traffic drastically increased after the construction of the road. We do Otasil as Department of Roads is anticipating the volume of future traffic. We will do on base course. We do in sub-base in the past. We do now with base course.  We will do otasil with structural strength. 

How can you make the rural road all weather?

Other components includemakingall-weather road through building the bridges. Although RAIDP piloted the scheme, it will be continual parts. We will also go for non-RAIDP road.  There are 53000 kilometer rural roads in all 75 districts. All these roads are DCRM, there are 20-30 percent roads,in the class A roads. We will do regular maintenance and periodicalmaintenance of class A roads, only of 33 projects. So far as river structures are concerned, we will construct in the road taken up by RAIDP. Thereis the need of almost 8000 meter bridges.  There are almost 800 bridges required taking a minimum length of bridge is 50 meter span. The government does not have budget.  Only roads in 33 districts were built under RAIDP.Our target is to build 35-40 bridges. We are now pursuing with our development partners to provide resources to build the remaining bridges in a level road and other roads. Nepal’s development partners have made it clear that as long as Local Road Network and Strategic Road Networks’ territory cannot be defined, they will not provide any support. Strategic road cover highways and feeder roads, under ministry of Infrastructure and Transport Department.

How do you see the problems of duplication between DOLIDAR and RoD?

There is some duplication of work. In many instances, Department’s road is working in local road network. Although DoR expresses the willingness to hand over all Local Road to DOLDAR, it is not happening in real sense. National Planning Commission needs to play an active role here. We are facing a lot of difficulty at the implementation level. Although the territory of Local Road networks falls under Ministry of Federal and Local Development, DoR is still building the bridges. There is a decision that the DoR will hand over local road to MoFALD. There is a territory intention.

Do you think certain change has happened recently?

With the initiative of secretary Of Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development (MOFALD), Dr. Som Lal Subedi, recently a decision was taken with the presence of  Secretary of Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport Tulsi Sitaula to hand over all local network and the work to construct the bridges at local network to MoFALD. This is a good decision.  There are so many confusionsabout the role of ministries.  There is a lot of controversy on territory. Now the ministry agreed to hand over the road to us. This is a very good initiative by Secretary Dr. Subedi. This is a major milestone. We are now free to talk with Nepal’s development partners about the need for their support. Even Development Committee of Legislature Parliament has directed the government to take all the local roads under MoFALD.

What makes this program different?

One program will go for road upgrading and other program will go to construct bridges.The design of this operation reflects lessons learned from a sustained engagement. Without SNRTP’s follow up interventions, RAIDP beneficiaries might lose much of the access they previously gained. Insufficient and ineffective maintenance is the primary threat to the sustainability of RAIDP’s investments.

What are the project’s strategies?

SNRTP aligns with the Interim Strategy note (ISN) for Nepal and forthcoming World Bank Group Country Partnership Strategy (CPS).The CPS specifically highlights improving connectivity throughout Nepal as a key consideration for inclusive economic growth and rural poverty and increase shared prosperity among the bottom 40 percent through increase in agricultural incomes for rural communities in participating districts.

What are the project development activities?

The PDO is to enhance the availability and reliability of transport connectivity for rural communities and participating districts. Although the project started from April 2, 2014, we have made certain progress. The project is going to close on 15 July, 2019. After the completion of the project, there will be an increase in the access to all weather transport connectivity to the percentage of population within 2 and 4 hours of walking distance in the participating terai, mountain and hill districts. The project covers 33 districts, including 30 districts covered by RAIDP. There are two project management units.

What are physical targets of the project?

The physical targets of the project include upgrading, rehabilitation of 2221 Kilometer District Road network and periodic maintenance of river crossing structures in DCRN 2469 kilometers. Routine maintenance is necessary for crossing structures on DCRN 5850 kilometers.

How can SNRTP be distinguished from other projects?

One of the major features of the SNRTP is that it has given emphasis primarily on the rural transport connectivity all round the year.  The project design reflects concerted efforts to address each of these lessons learned along with additional recommendations from the Nepal Road Sector Assessment Study. The financial cost of the works is not constrained by project specific cap. SNRTP comprises one of the most important and focused components of output based maintenance of DCRN roads and the crossing structures across to be verified by National Vigilance center by 100 percent.

What are the priority areas?

SNRTP has given the first priority to make all the DCRN roads previously taken by RAIDP to make them all weather roads. The implementation and maintenance of DCRN will be based on the annual road maintenance plan and Multilayer Road Maintenance Plan to be prepared by very important software Rural Transport Infrastructure Management System (RuTIMS). SNRTP has engaged the International Labor Organization (ILO) Nepal office for the technical support in routine maintenance of the rural roads on the basis of its worldwide experiences in this particular field. The project also comprises another most important component of construction of DCRN taken by RAIDP at first priority to make year round connectivity.

What other activities are there?

SNRTP has encompassed the different activities corresponding to institutional strengthening and capacity building components. Out of the population of 14.50, about 25 percent of the people are in fact the beneficiaries of the SNRTP.

What is the state of project?

Before the effectiveness of the project, we have completed certain works. We are now in preparatory phase. Theprocess of establishment of offices and logistic arrangements has already completed or is in pipelinefor completion. We are also working on physical works as well. In this fiscal year, we have the target to complete 740 kilometers of regular road maintenance. However, we will complete almost 1400 kilometer at the end of fiscal year. We are much ahead. We are unable to meet the target in periodic maintenance. In upgradation of road, we have made a major progress even in absence of preparatory works.  We have the target of upgradation of 115 kilometers, however, we have already signed contract to upgrade 58 kilometers road bitumen and otasils. We hope that at the end of fiscal year we can complete over 40 kilometers out of 115. We have already hired consultants and logistics. Physical progress is low, but we are in the process.

How will it help to eradicate poverty and improve rural livelihood?

Learning from the experiences from RAIDP for poverty alleviation and rural livelihood, the program has added certain new features. These are comprehensive programs. This project will also study the possibility of market centers in the corridor of roads. We have also market structure components in our program.  We are going to take study on market centers in all 75 districts. There will be separate projects for market center development. This is the largest project for rural transport sector. Financial viability 175.4 million dollar project for rural transport sector. This is World Bank and Nepal government’s project.  The World Bank agrees to provide 100 million dolor and rest is from Nepal government, which is adding 63.9 million dollar.  In the maintenance components, the government is providing 75 percent of resources. We envisage 11.5 million dollar from DfID. However, they have yet to make any commitment.

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