KATHMANDU, May 18: The government has decided to adopt a new policy on bridge constructions, under which it will soon segregate the total demand for construction of bridges under different categories and prioritize only bridges that are genuinely important and needed.
The new initiative has been taken mainly because the haphazard construction of local roads in different election constituencies in the interest of politicial leaders started generating pressure on the government to build bridges on such roads as well.
"Given the soaring demand for construction of bridges on such politically-inspired roads, we are neither able to focus properly on the construction of strategic and significant bridges nor ensure that the budget allocated for bridges is used meaningfully," said a source at the Ministry of Physical Planning and Works (MoPPW).
Given such a situation, the government had decided to adopt a more efficient Bridge Management System (BMS) for the prioritization of bridge constructions. With support from the World Bank it has already developed software for BMS, which will rank all the demands for bridges received from different parts of the country after analyzing the ground realities and strategic importance.
"BSM is advanced technology. It will help us prioritize the necessity of bridges in any given area," Krityanand Thakur, project chief at the Bridge Project at the Department of Roads (DoR), told Republica. He added that it will for the first time establish a standard assessment and prioritization system in the country.
Adoption of the new system will enable DoR to systematically handle undue pressure coming from political leaders to construct bridges in their own constituencies. If their needs prove genuine, their requests will be picked up, otherwise not.
"We were compelled to use 75 percent of the total budget for bridge projects allocated this year to implement projects that political leaders pressed for," said the same source, indicating that only 25 percent of about Rs 4.6 billion that MoPPW spent so far has gone into the construction of important bridges.
Officials said they are planning to implement the new system from the upcoming fiscal year. However, MoPPW will be able to implement its decision only if the government and the World Bank ink a roads project agreement within this fiscal year. "The World Bank has agreed to provide from next fiscal year a certain percent of the total required cost for the construction of bridges that fall within the national strategic road network," Thakur said.
In order to avoid undue political pressure, which dilutes DoR´s focus, the government has also decided to task it only with the development of bridges in the national strategic road network. "DoR will not be handling bridges on local roads that have just been laid out in different electoral constituencies," Thakur said.