•      Thu Sep 28 2023

Development activities including Postal Highway bring prosperity to people of Madhes

Raju Bishwokarma

Birgunj, Aug 23: The rural markets of Madhes province have changed with development activities including the road expansion taking place at a fast pace in recent years. The once thatched huts on the roadside, narrow roads and small shops are now replaced by wide roads, concrete buildings and big shops while the lifestyle of the local people has significantly improved. These development activities have instilled a kind of enthusiasm in the local people.

The identity of the Bariyarpatti market has changed with development activities. The market which adjoins the Ladaniya market on the Indian border has witnessed the increasing mobility of general people while big investment shops have opened. “The narrow roads, thatched huts and only small business have been now replaced by wide roads, concrete buildings and large shops,” said Binod Yadav of Aaurahi in Dhanusha district.

Thori is one of the areas being developed as a tourist destination. The blacktopped Postal Highway has added development and tourism activities to Thori that was once overshadowed due to the lack of road network and publicity.

The blacktopping from Birgunj in Parsa district to Thori has facilitated transport up to the district headquarters, Birgunj. “The once around eight-hour-on-a-motorcycle distance has been shortened to one-hour now. The around 52 km blacktopped road has relieved us of dust and mud,” said Lalit Shrestha of Thori Rural Municipality-4.

This has also helped local people in many ways. It has become easier for the transport of vegetables, fruits and other produce to the Birgunj market while there is potential for the creation of job opportunities, said Shrawan Mahato of Bahudarmai Municipality.

Under the Highway considered the lifeline of Madhes, the road construction in all eight districts of the province has speeded up making even rural areas accessible.

The Highway and the road upgrading have helped with development activities in over a half dozen local levels in the province, said Santosh Mehata, chairperson of Bariyarpatti Rural Municipality. “Following the completion of the Highway, the valuation of the land has also significantly increased. One kaththa of land is now sold for Rs 6 to 7 million from Rs 2 million in the past,” said Umesh Yadav, chairperson of Bishnupur Rural Municipality in Saptari.

Under the Highway, the around 550 km road from Saptari to Parsa has been blacktopped, and bridges at over 60 places have been constructed. The construction of the 46 km road along with the bridges from Kanchanpur in the east to the Balan river is underway, said Bijaya Kumar Thapa, chief of the project office, Itahari, the Postal Highway Directorate.

“Two contractors have been at work to construct the road. Now, blacktopping the 32 km road has been completed. Blacktopping the remaining eight km is ongoing,” he said.

Around 90 percent of the blacktopping has been complete from the Balan river to Sarlahi. Of the around 233 km road from Siraha to Sarlahi, 118 km has been blacktopped, and work on the remaining road section is ongoing, according to the project office, Janakpurdham.

Of the 26 km road from Kadamchowk in Janakpurdham to the Kamala river, 24 km has been blacktopped, and the remaining two km is being worked on at a fast pace, said Krishna Kumar Mahato, chief of the office. Under the Siraha section, blacktopping the 30 km road from the Balan river to the Kamala river that separates the border of Saptari and Siraha has been complete, and the construction of a bridge in the section has reached its final stage, he said.

The road up to Sitalpur-Malangwa Kharaiya tole of Sarlahi was constructed by the Road Division Office, Chandranigahapur, Rautahat but it was handed over to the Postal Highway Project Office, Janakpurdham citing the work could not progress. Following the handover of the total 40 km road, blacktopping 38 km has been over, and work on the remaining is being done.

Although it targets the completion of the road within this current fiscal year, the construction has been pushed back for some time due to the delay in removing the houses in the project site, land disputes in some places and the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

Similarly, the construction of five out of nine bridges under construction on the road section from Siraha to Sarlahi has been completed, and the work on four bridges including the Kamala river bridge is underway, said the office. Tars have run out of stock to blacktop the around 251 km road from Rautahat from Chitwan, and the remaining 32 km has been affected due to forest and land disputes.

A recommendation has been sent to the Department of Postal Roads and the Ministry for the environmental impact assessment (EIA) on matters such as how to expand the Parsa National Park in the Thori area of Parsa, said engineer Sanjaya Kumar Thakur, Information Officer for the Postal Highway Directorate Planning Office. Blacktopping the road and other works will start in the area soon after the EIA report comes out, he said.

Likewise, five of the bridges under construction from Rautahat to Chitwan are being completed in the FY, 2079/80, said the office. Despite the target of completing the construction of 14 bridges in that FY, five bridges have been completed, and the remaining are under construction, he said.

Nine and a half of the 10 km Gadhimai Bariyarpur-Kabahi Goth in Bara has been blacktopped. Similarly, only around 20 percent of the road from Bharatpur-Thori-Madi Devendrapur-Bagai Bus Park has been completed due to the lack of construction materials and EIA due to forest disputes.

Construction affected by land disputes

The construction work on the Highway has been frequently affected due to land disputes, it has been said. The road construction work in Dhanushsa’s Aaurahi and Tinkauriya bazaar has been affected due to the lawsuit filed by the locals in the court regarding the land disputes.

While the construction work of the about 25 km of the 27 km road from East Kamala to West Janakpurdham is about to reach its final stage, the remaining two km could not be progressed due to land disputes, said engineer Sunil Mukhiya, the Lama Raman JV. It created problem after the High Court, Janakpurdham ordered the resumption of the road construction only after giving compensation in a case filed by the local Ram Babu Sah Sudi claiming that he owns the land in front of the area police office of Aaurahi bazaar, he said. As a result, the road construction of around 600 metres road in the Aaurahi bazaar has yet to begin, he added.

Similarly, the road construction of about 600 metres from Tikauriya bazaar has also been affected after the locals protested over the land dispute in the Tikauriya bazaar of Bideha Municipality in Dhanusha. Lately, efforts to resume the construction are on after resolving the problem in coordination with the local level, said Krishna Kumar Mahato, head of the highway project office, Janakpurham. Lama Raman JV signed an agreement on 15 July, 2016 to complete the road upgrading on 13 April, 2022. The deadline was extended until 13 April, 2023 after the construction could not be complete on time. Lawsuits and resultant problems regarding land disputes are to blame for not completing the construction within the deadline, said Mahato.

Similarly, under the Siraha section from the Balan river to the Kamala river, which separates the border of Saptari and Siraha, only about 20 metres of the road is left to be blacktopped. Under the Siraha section, 29.5 km of the 30 km road has been blacktopped while the work on the remaining 500 metres has not progressed due to land disputes, it has been said.

The construction work in Dudhmati Basbitti, Bhashwanpur Chowk and Banchauri in Mahottari and Malangawa bazaar, Brahma Chowk, Garahaiya bazaar, Gobargunj and Haripurwa bazaar along Shitalpur-Malangawa Kharaiyatole road has been obstructed due to land disputes. The work has not been done on more than four km road from Kanchanpur to Balan in Saptari, thanks to land disputes. “The work has been halted on the about 800 metres road in the district headquarters Rajbiraj after the locals moved the court by picking a land dispute,” said Thapa. A few days ago, the municipality widened the road from Ram Mandir in Rajbiraj to Chhinnamasta Deri with the help of a dozer, he said.

Nine and a half of the 10 km Gadhimai-Bariyapur-Kabahi road in Bara has been blacktopped, and the remaining 500 metres have been affected due to land disputes, said engineer Thakur.

Likewise, on the road from Bharatpur-Thori-Madi Debendrapur to Bagai Bus Park, only around 20 percent of the road construction has not been completed due to the lack of construction materials and after the EIA could not take place as a result of forests.

Hope raised by the lifeline of Madhes

The local people are a happy lot after the construction of the Postal Highway, which is considered the lifeline of Madhes, has progressed at a speedy pace. The highway stretching to around 20 to 30 km southward along the parallel border of the East-West Highway, which was used by postmen carrying letters during the Rana period, is also called the Padam Road as it was advanced by former ruler Padma Shumsher.

There are 32 auxiliary highways of the 817 kms road connecting with the district headquarters of Madhes from the East-West Highway. Then the Prime Minister of India Chandra Shekhar during his visit to Nepal in 2047 BS expressed the commitment of the Indian government to support the construction of the Postal Highway.

Although the theoretical agreement for Indian assistances reached in 2061 BS, after the 2062/63 people’s movements in Nepal, the Indian government agreed to design, supervise and construct the 1,440 kms road selected by the Government of Nepal in three phases.

According to the agreement, the Government of India would bear all expenses for this, and the Government of Nepal would undertake the land acquisition, removal of electric poles, trees and the construction of all bridges on the highway. According to the mapping by Nepal, the Postal Highway is 1,792 kms in length. RSS