KATHMANDU: Three weeks before the upcoming House of Representatives and Provincial Assembly elections scheduled to be held on 20th November, contesting political parties unveiled their election manifestos loaded with populist pledges. Some of the promises, they made readily seem to be quite impossible to deliver within five years.
The manifestos of most of the parties have committed to completing the Mid-hill (Madhya Pahadi) Highway, the Postal Highway, and the Koshi, Kaligandaki, and Karnali Corridor projects connecting the north and south, to complete in five years. The construction of those national priority projects started around 2008-09. Over one and a half decades, since the start of the construction of these projects, progress is not satisfactory with a cost overrun.
Generally, five to seven years is considered the ideal time to complete large projects, or seven years if they move smoothly. After nearly a decade and a half, the parties that have been running the government several times, have aspired to lead the upcoming new government after the elections.
Hence, people are not assured that they will deliver such complex projects given the parties’ status-quoist nature. This is not the first time they have made such pledges to complete the projects. Earlier election manifestos were also flooded with hollow promises to implement such large-scale schemes.
Financially and technically impossible
Relevant experts say that the promises made by the parties in their manifestos are not possible to deliver within five years-both financially and technically.
Madhusudan Adhikari, a former secretary of the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport, the projects can’t be delivered within five years considering the complexity of the process of implementation. “Manifestos seem the documents designed for securing popularity among the people, not for implementation,” said Adhikari.
Former Joint Secretary Rajendra Raj Sharma, says that the promises made by the parties through the manifestos cannot be fulfilled in the next five years.
“The announcement was made only to entice the people to vote, even the Mid-hill (Madhya Pahadi) highway, which is easier to complete compared to others, will not be completed in time as stated in manifestos.
“Given the weak track record of implementing the projects, general people are not convinced with the pledges in the manifestos,” adds Sharma, who gained long experience in building road projects.
Parties’ commitment regarding major road projects
CPN Unified Marxist–Leninist (UML)
The UML has stated that the development and expansion of the East-West Highway, Strategic Highways, and North-South Corridor will be completed within the next five years. They have also made a commitment to complete ongoing constructions of national, all highways of strategic importance, and roads connecting centers of economic prosperity within the next five years.
According to a UML official, the construction of roads connecting all local-level ward centers to the municipal centers and the municipal center to the provincial capital will be completed at the earliest.
In addition, the construction of black-topped roads to the local headquarters, ward centers, schools, health institutions, agricultural firms, industrial business places, and main market centers will be carried out at a rapid pace.
Nepali Congress has mentioned that the postal highways, Mid-hill highway, and Madan Bhandari highway will be completed within five years. The manifesto of the party states that Manang -Mustang along the Kaligandaki corridor connecting Jumla , Mechi, Koshi, Sagarmatha, Tamor, Kaligandaki, Bheri Karnali, and Mahakali corridors will be completed within the period.
It has been also pledged that the Prithvi Highway from Mugling to Pokhara will be upgraded to a four-lane. The party has also pledged to bring the Nijgadh Kathmandu Expressway into operation.
Upgrading the BP highway, connecting Attaria to Tinkar and Khodpe to Bajhang,and the expansion of the Kathmandu ring road will be completed while the Dumre-Besisahar-Manang road will also be upgraded to two lanes.
CPN (Maoist Center)
The Maoist Center has promised that the construction and upgrading of East-West and North-South highways, public roads, and expressways will be advanced at a rapid pace, without mentioning names. The construction of the Kathmandu-Terai-Madhesh expressway will be accelerated.
The upgrading of ring roads in Kathmandu Valley and other cities and the construction of outer ring roads will be carried out simultaneously.
Maoists have not clearly specified the time period. But since it is a five-year manifesto, it can be understood that they are referring to completing it during the same period.
CPN (Unified Socialist)
The United Socialist has said that the Kathmandu-Terai expressway will be built within three years while the East-West highway will be upgraded to six lanes within five years.
It has promised to upgrade the Mid-hill Pushpalal Highway to four lanes and complete construction of the Madan Bhandari Highway within the next five years.
The Karnali, Gandaki, and Koshi Corridors, as well as the North-South Highway, and all Terai districts will be prioritized for the construction of a wide highway linking the Nepal-India border.
Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP)
The JSP, which focuses on Madhesh, pledged to complete the construction of the Mid-Hill Highway and postal roads. It has been mentioned in its manifesto that the construction work on the Pushpalal Mid-Hill Highway and the North-South routes, where the construction work has started, will be given high priority.
It has been announced that the existing east-west highway will be upgraded to four lanes and the ring road around Kathmandu will be made eight lanes within five years with bicycle lanes on both sides.
It has also mentioned that the possibility of extending the Dharan Hetauda road in the Inner Madhesh Corridor to Rampur in Palpa and connecting the main settlements of the mountain region from Taplejung to Darchula will be studied properly and worked on.
Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP)
RPP has mentioned that the construction of the Mechi Mahakali Postal Highway, the Kathmandu-Hetauda Tunnel, the Kathmandu Jumla Highway, and the Madhya Pahadi Highway will be completed at a fast pace.
According to the party’s manifesto, the north-south highways of Karnali and Sudurpaschim provinces will be developed and expanded based on traffic volume so that there will be internal connections.
It has been mentioned that the east-west highway from Mechi to Mahakali will be upgraded to international highway standards within five years. Also, the inter-provincial highway will be expanded based on traffic volume.
Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP)
The RSP, however, has not mentioned that it will complete any roads. Instead, it has been mentioned in the manifesto that the National Transport Master Plan will be prepared.
The master plan has promised to integrate the transport network plan that will outline the roadmap for road, rail, air, ropeway, and waterways.