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Humla eagerly awaits road to prosperity

Now that 50km road length of the total 95km is to be made motor able, the Project targets to extend the road to be motor able up to district headquarter Simkot by the end of this fiscal year

NIRJANA SHARMA

KATHMANDU, Feb 1

Picture7

Hilsa-Simkot Road Section

“We have no choice but to buy diesel illegally from China to operate dozers used in road construction.” Chief of Hilsa-Simkot Road Project Badri Sharma was baffled to hear this from the contractors involved in the project the day he took charge two years ago.

The contractors were talking about smuggling of unauthorized fuel from across the China border to Humla.
Hilsa-Simkot road section forms southern end of the total 284km North-South Karnali Corridor that begins from Khulalu of Kalikot district. The Hilsa-Simkot road section is 196km from Kalikot.
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Vehicle at Hilsa-Simkot 95km road section where 45km has been motorable. This Northern end of 284 km  Karnali Corridor is expected to be motor able by the end of this fiscal year
Contractors have been relying on Humla residents along Humla-China border for labor and carrying the fuel for heavy vehicles.

From To Length Earthen Under Construction & Planned
Simikot Labcha (China Border) 95 75 20
Dulya Hilsa (China Border) 173 52 121
Total Km 268 127 141

However, when project Chief Sharma learned the contractors´ helplessness in accomplishing the work on time, he met with the officials of the District Development Committee (DDC) to urge them to inform the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport about the issue.

As soon as the ministry lobbied to the Chinese government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Chinese government issued a public notice asking Nepal government to purchase diesel following due process.

“It´s an agreement between the two governments and the purchase of fuel during the entire project would be maintained at the ministry level,” said Sharma.
With this, the project has surpassed one of the biggest hurdles, as managing fuel supply at the heights of 3000m to 5000m height was one of the major problems apart from the geographical complexity for the officials and contractors involved in the project.

“The road, which is one of the national priority projects, has given hope to a lot of people living in the remote districts,” said Naresh Prasad Dhakal, local development officer of Humla DDC. The government had declared the road section among the national pride projects through the budget speech in the beginning of this fiscal year.
In lack of transportation facilities, Humla folks are compelled to cover long distances on foot, and high cost of commodities, brought into the district by air, has kept them from rising out of poverty.

Humla ranks 73rd position among the country´s 75 districts on Human Development Index. The rate of child mortality, maternal mortality, malnutrition is far higher compared to the national average.

At present, the Humla people have three options to carry goods of daily use to their place. Traveling to china border Taklakot, which is a three-day walk from Simkot. Second option is to travel three days south on foot or by mule to Kolti of Bajura district, where the goods are transported on Karnali highway, although the road remains shut during rainy season and during the heavy snowfall in winter.

Third is most costly. Paying Rs 157 per kg to carry stuff from Nepalgunj to Simkot, excluding the Rs 11400 airfare per person. The prices of commodities shoot up by at least 157 percent by the time they reach Simkot, says local journalist Dipendra Rokaya.

“If we buy anything worth one rupee in Nepalgunj, same thing costs Rs 158 in Humla,” added Rokaya.
Now, with the work to make 50 km of the total 95 km road motorable already afoot, the project targets to extend the road to district headquarters Simkot by the end of this fiscal year.
“Twenty kilometers will be completed in three months,” said Sharma. Similarly, next 30 km would be completed by the end of this fiscal year.

Until now, more than 45 km road of Hilsa-Simkot section has been constructed. In this maintained roads, only a handful of Chinese vehicles are moving for now.
At present, reserved vehicles charge Rs 10,000 per trip from China border to the area. As the vehicles can hardly accommodate 10 people, the cost per head reached Rs 1000, says Chandra Bahadur Buda, a Humla resident.

Traveling in a luxury vehicle at the height of 3000m to 5000m is beyond imagination for many locals. However, the candidates of the second CA polls took a Pajero ride at Limi-Lapcha road section during their electoral publicity campaign.

Meanwhile, not all Humla people agree with the government´s plan to begin road construction from China border.
“This is a wrong approach that intends to make us fully dependent on Chinese market,” said Rita Shahi, a CA member nominated from PR seat from the district. Connecting Humla people with the rest of Nepal is more important than linking the district to Tibet.

Lack of sense of ownership and the battle over who should get the credit for initiating the work has also hindered the project´s progress, said Sharma. “It is a bitter truth that some people want to thwart the road constriction fearing that some else might take away all the credit,” he added.

Government´s role apart, Humla residents are enthusiastically making necessary preparations from their side.
Aware of the fact that only continuous import would not uplift their economic status, Humla residents are already working on a noble plan to plant fruit trees on either side of the road and other income generating activities.

“We will export our own products and fruits can become Humla´s best export,” said Dhananjay Buda, a student, sounding highly optimistic.

Source: Republica DailyLink: http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=68931
Published on 2014-02-02 02:32:35
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About nirjanasharma

Nepali Journalist.

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