Vehicles bound for Kathmandu from Rasuwagadhi make their way through one of the many muddy road sections of the Pasang Lhamu Highway in this recent photo. Photos Courtesy: Nirajan Poudel/Republica
NUWAKOT, Nov 7: Congestion along the road connecting Galchhi of Dhading district to Rasuwagadhi - the gateway to China in Rasuwa district- has been creating hassles for vehicles to ply on it.
Though regarded as lifeline for Nepal-China trade, in lack of repair and upgrade this single-lane 102-kilometer road is being considered as a risky route to trade.
“It’s a lifeline for Nepal - China trade. But seems nobody cares to upgrade this single-lane road or even repair it. Though at times we’re stuck for hours or for days we don’t have a choice other than to keep using it,” said Raj Ballav Adhikari who was spotted driving his own truck along the road last week. “Sometimes it takes days to travel through the road and if we are transporting consumables like Apple, they rot by the time we reach Kathmandu.”
His truck transports apple from Rasuwa to Kathmandu during the apple season. Normally it’s one-day journey to Dhading but he has hardly made it in a single day as most often the time the road is blocked by vehicles that get stuck in the mud. “If the road was smooth, a lot of our time and money would have been saved.”
Due to the delay many of fresh apples merchandise has rotten on the way, incurring him huge losses. “When they begin to rot, you cannot save them. And with no insurance to cover the loss, I have suffered losses several times.”
During Tihar this year, he was forced to bear a loss of Rs 60,000 when the apples he was transporting to Kathmandu rot on the way due a day’s delay. “We take huge risk to do business. If not us, someone else will take over. Whoever does it, one should be ready to face the loss unless the road’s condition is improved,” Dharma Lal Shrestha, a trader whose trucks ply along the route, said.
The delays are not only because one’s truck gets stuck but also if someone else’s truck gets stuck, he said. “This is a single lane road. So, if a single vehicle gets stuck, vehicles on the both side get stuck.” Reflecting on his experience, he claims that there is rarely a day when there is no traffic-jam along the road.
Slipper slopes are another risk of plying along the road, he claims. “Vehicles plying on the road are mostly fully loaded. The Syafrubeshi to Trishuli section of the road has innumerable slippery slopey turnings. In such condition it is very hard for the drivers to keep the trucks from skidding off the road.”
Shrestha called on the government to come up with immediate and long-term solution for easing off transportation along the route. “A narrow road full of landslide debris, and sharp, inclined and slippery bends cannot help to boost trade between Nepal and China.”
He says that it’s a serious challenge for the drivers to drive on a single-lane road which has dangerous cliffs on its side. “We challenge death everyday while passing through this road.”
Another truck driver along the route, Pawan Thapa, shared similar concerns adding that there is no security of drivers’ life or the millions-worth goods their trucks transport everyday through the route. “Our vehicles get stuck at 3 to 4 points, at the least, every day. From Rasuwagadhi to Galchhi, the drive is extremely risky. I don’t know till when will I be able tolerate the frustration and nervousness of driving along this route.”
Only 24-kilometer section of the road from Galchhi to Bidur of Nuwakot is black topped. But it is also not broad enough to allow two vehicles to pass. Babulal Tamang, a local leader, accused the government of neglecting the route, despite its importance in boosting trade with China. Most of the route is part of the Pasang Lhamu Highway.
“Both traders and locals have been tired of this. This narrow road that is full of landslides has been making it hard for us to earn a living. But, it remains unknown as to when the government will respond to our woes,” he said.
Along with the road, lack of parking area at the Rasuwagadhi border area is another problem that the drivers have to cope with. “There is no parking zone at the border point for us to load and unload our trucks,” Thapa shared.
This 190 kilometer route from Kathmandu to Kerung has been on both governments’ priority list but locals and stakeholders feel that least has been done to actualize the status accorded to it in diplomatic dealings.
A woman waits for a ride as a lorry loaded with goods negotiates a muddy slope along the Pasang Lhamu Highway in this recent picture.