Asian Development Bank (ADB) Country Director for Nepal Arnaud Cauchois on 14–15 February visited the Narayanghat- Butwal section of the South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) Road Improvement Project (SRIP) and observed the current status of the construction amid concerns of delays. The visit also included meetings with ministers of economic affairs and cooperatives and physical infrastructure development of Lumbini province, mayor of Butwal, senior government officials, and local authorities.
“The road construction and maintenance work has picked up pace in the recent months, but clearly it needs to be expedited further,” said Mr. Cauchois. “I had constructive meetings with the project team, consultants, and contractors, and I am hopeful whatever issues remain in terms of managing resources and construction materials will be resolved soon.”
In his meetings, Cauchois also emphasized on the urgency to complete construction of bridges before the onset of the monsoon in places where the original bridges were damaged or destroyed by the 2021 floods. He also discussed improving road maintenance, better traffic management, and deploying better road diversions to avoid traffic congestions as the roads are being constructed and upgraded.
Cauchois was accompanied by Project Director of SRIP Sushil Babu Dhakal, and other staff of the Department of Roads. Mr. Cauchois visited at least four bridge construction sites, crusher plant sites, batching plant site, labor and contractor camp sites, among others.
“This stretch of the road once upgraded is expected to bring economic benefits by providing better access to local and regional markets and making movements of goods and people easier,” said Mr. Cauchois. “Further delays are unacceptable, and everyone involved must work together to complete this strategic road network on agreed schedule.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the work to some extent. And delays in tree cutting and shifting of electric poles also hindered the work progress,” Mr. Dhakal said. “But now these issues have been almost resolved, and we have asked the contractors to accelerate construction work and deploy all their resources to make up for the lost time.”
The project, financed by ADB, is upgrading 154 kilometers (km) of Nepal’s strategic road network (113 km of the East–West Highway) and improving the country’s domestic and regional transport connectivity