CHITWAN, June 25: With the onset of the monsoon rains, as many as 29 places along the under-construction Narayanghat-Mugling road section have been flagged as potentially risky due to possible landslides. The Narayanghat-Mugling Road Section Project Office, construction officials and security personnel expect the situation to be more critical in the coming days as landslides have already started occurring almost on a daily basis along the road section.
On Friday, a fresh landslide struck the route at around 3 pm, bringing vehicular movement to a complete halt. Prior to that, the route had just been reopened after clearing the debris of previous landslides that took place at around 9 pm on Saturday.
The 36-km Narayanghat-Mugling road section is considered as one of the most vital road links of Nepal as it connects the country’s southern, eastern and western parts with tourist-hub Pokhara and capital Kathmandu. The road is being upgraded into two lanes while meeting the criteria for Asian standards. Its hills have been slashed during the widening process, leading to increased occurrences and risks of landslides in the area.
Landslides taking place on a regular basis have resulted in hours of traffic snarls on the route where about 10,000 vehicles ply everyday. Not just the traffic problems, it has also endangered the lives and properties of the commuters and locals, according to officials.
The Kalikhola area of the road section is also witnessing landslides on a daily basis. On Thursday night, a landslide there buried a police van with four police personnel inside. The dead bodies of two policemen have been recovered while the two others are still missing.
An all-party meeting was held at the District Administration Office (DAO), Chitwan, on Sunday to review the condition of the road section. In the meeting, Shiva Khanal, engineer and information officer of the Narayanghat-Mugling Road Section Project Office, informed the stakeholders that 29 places along the road section are highly prone to landslides.
The risky areas were identified as per the studies conducted by geologists. The seven kilometer road section from Jalbire to Mugling is the riskiest, according to the project office. Khanal said half of the potential risks lie on Jalbire-Mugling section.
“Traveling along the Narayanghat-Mugling road in the upcoming days will be highly risky,” Chief District Officer (CDO) Narayan Prasad Bhatta said. “As the road already has high traffic, landslides make the traffic management even more difficult. Driving vehicles during monsoon is not only challenging, but also highly risky.”
Rains and landslides also slow down the construction pace, according to the project office. In the name of construction, the office has been closing the road section for six hours a day - from 10 am to 4 pm. Officials from the project office said construction works will be halted from Monday and the road obstruction for construction will be suspended.
The ongoing road upgrade work is moving at a slow pace. An agreement to complete the renovation of the Narayanghat-Mugling road section was signed in April 2015 under a two-year contract. The deadline has already passed, but only half of the work has been completed. Although the contract period has been extended till December, stakeholders say there is no hope of completing the work within the extended deadline as well.