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Nagdhunga Tunnel Construction Faces Hurdles as Locals Protest

March 17, 2024
Nagdhunga Tunnel Construction

The construction of the Nagdhunga Tunnel, a key transportation project in Nepal, has hit a roadblock due to protests by residents. The project, nearing completion, faces a delay of at least a week as disgruntled locals raise concerns about their basic needs being neglected.

While the project boasts significant progress with 98% of the tunnel excavation complete, locals are up in arms over the lack of attention paid to their grievances. The primary concern is the drying up of natural springs and water sources due to construction activities. Project-built water pumps are considered an inadequate solution, especially considering the financial burden they place on residents for their daily water needs.

Gopi Surkheti, a local leader, emphasizes that the issue of water security has been raised with the government on multiple occasions, including with Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal. However, their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

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The protests extend beyond water worries. Residents have reported significant damage to their houses caused by underground blasting during construction. These damages, including sinkholes and cracks, have rendered their dwellings practically worthless. Locals are demanding that the government acknowledge the impact of the project and provide them with proper compensation.

Tara Bahadur KC, a resident forced to relocate due to uninhabitable conditions, highlights that the project’s relocation assistance only covers rent and does not address the long-term consequences for displaced families.

Project Director Navin Man Shrestha acknowledges the water issue but clarifies that it falls outside their purview. He maintains that other government departments need to step in and ensure the long-term water security of the locals.

Shrestha further explains that compensation for damaged houses will be determined after a geological study is completed in the coming months.

Adding to the uncertainty, the project lacks a clear plan for toll tax collection from the tunnel. Shrestha states that the government will decide how the revenue will be used and whether the locals will benefit from it in any way.

The ongoing protests threaten to further delay the project’s completion. The contractor might seek an extension if construction doesn’t resume soon. This comes as a setback for a project already behind schedule, with only 72% physical progress and 63% financial progress achieved so far against the targeted completion within 42 months.

The Nagdhunga Tunnel project, touted as a national achievement, finds itself entangled in a web of local discontent. Unless the government addresses the residents’ concerns effectively, the path to completion may remain obstructed.

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