The Prithvi Highway is a vital link between the capital and the Tarai, through which passenger and goods traffic is by far the heaviest of all roads that lead to Kathmandu. This is so because it can stand heavy vehicles, and it is wider, easier, shorter, and the least costly of all existing roads leading to Kathmandu. The existing ‘alternatives’ are not really alternatives on these grounds. But the hills through which the Prithvi Highway passes are mostly vulnerable as their soil is not strong enough to prevent the frequent landslides. This situation has been made worse by our inability to take adequate preventive measures, such as planting trees there, and by the major earthquakes that struck in April and May of 2015, badly shaking our fragile mountains. The Mungling-Narayangadh Highway that links with the Prithvi Highway is now under reconstruction. Unfortunately, only half the work has been completed in 82 per cent of the project period.
The delay in execution and the urgency of the task do not match, as it will be costly to the public and hamper supply of goods and services. Some experts say the project completion could be delayed by four months. The earthquakes, acute oil shortages, frequent landslides and the ongoing monsoon rains have not helped the project move ahead smoothly. Indeed, this widening and upgrading project had started in April 2015 with a two-year completion target. But then, on the government’s part, it had been extended to December 2017 taking those factors into account. But even the extended deadline is unlikely to be met, which is sad and reflects on the calculations and working styles of those in responsible positions. But when our officials fail to carry out their assignments on time, they find one or another excuse to cover up their shortcomings. Officials now cite the problems of soil stabilization, and they say slope stabilisation could recur even after the project is completed and traffic along a three-kilometre stretch of Mungling-Narayangadh may be disrupted from time to time.
The World Bank-funded project aims to meet South Asian highway standards, which include road safety and environmental sustainability. But the lack of vision of our planners and the lack of determination on the part of our decision-makers to stick to what is good for Nepal have been behind much of the mess that has been created in road building, as well as other areas. We have been too dependent on outsiders and we have tended to take everything that others have given us in loans or grants irrespective of what is good for the country. The Tribhuvan Highway and the Banepa-Bardibas Highway are there but they cannot serve as alternatives to the Prithvi Highway, stressing that the long time taken to construct them and the huge sums of money spent on them do not seem to have been time and money best utilized for the country. The vulnerability of only one all-purpose road between Kathmandu and the Tarai should have woken up our leaders and officials years ago to seek and build alternative roads. The longer and therefore costlier Siddhartha Highway route can also help avoid the Mungling-Narayangadh stretch in the meantime. But all this is no long-term substitute for permanent alternative transport links for the capital.
During the monsoon more patients suffer from diarrhea. The Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital at Teku says around 80 patients with diarrhea had been admitted to the hospital since the start of the monsoon. Things get worse during the monsoon as during this season flooding sweeps away pollutants including decayed particles, dead animal carcasses, and also sewage polluting clean water. When people drink this they are likely to contract diarrhea. Experts advice people to drink only clean drinking water which has been treated properly and boiled.
People are also recommended to wash their hands with soap and water after using the toilets. We should be careful about what we eat and ensure they are not contaminated. According to reports as much as 75 to 80 per cent of drinking water consumed in the Kathmandu Valley contains coliform, a bacteria that causes diarrhea. Diarrhea is proving to be a major health threat not only in the capital but also other parts of the country. Many of them are in urgent need for treatment.
The Himalayan Times, July 6, 2017