Performance of bridge project exceeds recent records
BHOJ RAJ POUDEL
KATHMANDU, May 17: Ministry of Physical Planning and Works (MoPPW) might have failed to gear up roads and railway project, but its performance on bridge construction this year has well exceeded recent years´ records.
Records at the ministry show, Department of Roads (DoR) that executes bridge projects has already completed 50 bridges on the national strategic road network, and works on 350 other bridges that are under construction is also moving at a good pace.
“In fact, its performance has been so good that it has already spent Rs 2 billion allocated for the construction and maintenance of bridges, and has placed a demand for additional Rs 2.6 billion for settling payment of contractors,” said an official of the Ministry of Finance (MoF).
Under the annual budgetary program, the government had assigned MoPPW to handle the construction and maintenance of 400 bridges, including 100 bridges on the national strategic road network and 300 bridges on newly expanded roads, mainly in rural areas.
Of them, Karnali Bridge, Benighat Bridge, Rato River Bridge in Siraha, Pathraiya Bridge in Kailali district, Bahuligat Bridge in Bajhang district, Budikulo Bridge in Bardiya district and Bhusunde Khola Bridge in Gorkha are major projects of strategic importance.
“We have already achieved 50 percent of the task, completing 50 bridges along national strategic road network. Construction works in the remaining projects too are going on at a good pace,” said Krityanand Thakur, project chief of the Bridge Project at the DoR.
What troubles the department and MoPPW now is the lack of budget. As the pace of bridge constructions, which were started since last few years, exceeded the government´s anticipation, the payment liability has far exceeded the amount that MoF allocated for the purpose.
“Even after spending the allocated Rs 2 billion, we still owe Rs 2.60 billion to the contractors,” Tulsi Prasad Sitaula, secretary of the MoPPW, told Republica.
The Ministry has already apprised MoF of the situation and requested it for the release of additional amount within this fiscal year. “MoF officials have verbally agreed to release the fund,” said Sitaula.
However, other officials at MoPPW said they are skeptic over MoF releasing the promised amount. “We have received informal information that MoF is planning to release us just Rs 1 billion in this fiscal year,” said a source.
Of the 400 bridges handled by the DoR, 340 were projects carried forward from the previous year, while 60 were the newly initiated projects.
“Though we lagged behind on performances of national priority projects, spending on bridge projects have been outstanding,” Sitaula said, adding, “Hopefully, MoF will respond positively to our request so that we could continue the momentum of construction works.”
According to MoPPW, it would need a total of Rs 22 billion to complete the construction of all the planned bridge projects.