Kathmandu, Sept. 23: Most of the national pride projects have been put into action for more than a decade, but the expenditure on the large infrastructure projects is dismal as only 16 per cent budget is spent on an average. The government has announced 22 projects – including highways, hydroelectricity, airports, culture, irrigation, transmission and conservation – which carry budget of Rs. 1,810 billion. But only Rs. 284 billion has been spent so far. The performance of the pride projects could not be improved despite the government giving them high priority since 2012. Lumbini Development Trust, Babai Irrigation Project and Melamchi Water Supply Project have become the anecdotes for Nepal's development rhetoric. Lumbini’s development was announced 33 years ago, Babai 31 years and Melamchi 17 years ago. In the last more than three decades, Lumbini Development project has achieved just 50 per cent financial progress. Likewise, the Babai Irrigation has spent Rs. 7.65 billion of the total Rs. 18.96 billion budget to achieve just 46 per cent physical progress. Despite becoming the top agenda of every government in the last one decade and multiple extensions of deadline, Melamchi project couldn't be completed. After its contractor CMC fled the country leading the project in doldrums, the government has retendered it just to complete it not earlier than 2021. Projects like West Seti Hydropower Project couldn't take off even 22 years after their inception while the Postal Highway has achieved only 44 per cent progress in the last 12 years of its implementation. According to the National Planning Commission (NPC), the North-South Kaligandaki Corridor and Karnali Corridor have achieved 13 per cent and 27 per cent progress respectively. The time and cost overrun in the infrastructure project has become a 'development culture' in the country. "Most of the projects are delayed due to the collusion between the contractors and high-level government officials and political leaders," Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli said while addressing the 46th Meeting of the National Development Action Committee at the NPC at Singha Durbar on Sunday. He said that due to the high-level political protection to the insincere contractors, the entire government mechanism has become helpless, as a result the development works across the country are witnessing glitches time and again. About 1,700 projects are running late in the country. PM Oli said that the culture of not completing the projects in time and burdening the country with additional cost would not continue any more. "The government will give only a chance to the contractors if they are facing genuine trouble. If they fail again, they will be black-listed. The society is paying a huge cost due to the dillydallying in the infrastructure projects," he said.
GBIA early next year
However, a couple of projects like the Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa, Pokhara International Airport and Upper Tamakoshi Hydroelectricity Project have seen a tremendous progress in the last couple of years, achieving 74 per cent, 42 per cent and 99 per cent progress respectively. The government is set to start flight operation at the GBIA early next year. The Rs. 49.3 billion Tamakoshi will also be completed next year while the Pokhara Airport will come into operation in 2021. According to the line ministries, work at the Kathmandu-Terai Expressway, Pushpa Lal Mid-Hill Highway, Postal Highway, Bheri-Babai Diversion Multipurpose Project and Budhigandaki Hydroelectricity Project will be expedited this year.
A new policy on land acquisition
To address the chronic problems in land acquisition and shorten the cumbersome process for the same, the NPC has proposed an integrated land acquisition and compensation policy. The policy will be formulated by early 2020 by the Ministry of Home Affairs in consultation with the stakeholder agencies. It is expected that the new policy would also address the provisions for the public and unregistered land as well. Similarly, another policy on setting the right of way for the reservoir-based hydroelectricity projects will also be formulated by the end of January 2019.