FINALIZE DEVELOPMENT MODALITY OF FAST-TRACK ROAD PROJECT FIRST: FORMER PM BHATTARAI
KATHMANDU, July 30: Former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai has said that the modality of development of Kathmandu Madhesh Fast-Track Road Project should be finalized before starting the project. Speaking at a discussion in Kathmandu on Wednesday, Bhattarai said that his attention has been drawn toward news reports that say preparations are underway award the project to an Indian Company under public private partnership (PPP) model. The government has awarded the contract to prepare Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the 76-kilometer expressway to Indian company Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL& FS). Sources say the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport is now preparing to award the project to the company. Bhattarai, who had declared the project a national pride project, says different issues should be addressed before moving the project forward. He suspects that the government is trying to develop the project going against national interests. The former prime minister also said opinions of government officials regarding development of the project are being ignored.
Bhattarai has urged all concerned to develop the project by mobilizing internal resources. "We can use internal resources and encourage private sector to invest in the project. Technical experts can be brought from foreign countries," he added. Bhattarai also said the proposal of providing Rs 15 billion to the developer and bearing the risks to ensure minimum traffic guarantee in the toll road will put huge financial burden on the state coffer. He also said the government can use Indian line of credit of Rs 100 billion to develop the project. According to the latest DPR of the project, the project will cost Rs 98 billion. The DPR proposes collecting toll fee of Rs 1,600 for car, Rs 3,100 for bus, Rs 4,600 for truck and Rs 800 for two-wheelers. The toll rate is for first five years of operation. After that, the rate will be increased by a maximum of 10 percent every five years. Speaking at the program, Transport Engineer Surya Acharya said that the road would be second most expensive toll road in the world.
Bhattarai argued that Madhesi community living in southern plains will not be able to pay such an expensive toll rates. "If the government builds the road, one doesn't need to pay such a high toll fee," he said, adding, "The government should invest on infrastructure projects on its own, like India and China, to create investment-friendly environment."Engineer Ranjan Kumar Dahal said that the Nepal's private sector is more efficient than foreign companies as they know Nepal's geology better than any others. Jay Ram Lamichhane, former president of Federation of Contractor's Association, said that the government should involve Nepali private sector in the project.