Nepal’s first road tunnel project is barely halfway through, thanks to multiple delays, as the latest progress report of the project suggests.
The overall physical progress of the Nagadhunga Tunnel Project has reached 47.9 percent, with 1,782 meters dug thus far out of the total stretch of 2,888 meters—851 meters from the east (Kathmandu) and 931 meters from the west. Financial progress of the project has barely touched the halfway mark (49.59 percent).
Construction of the evacuation tunnel (2,557 meters) is moving on slowly, with a total stretch of 2,046 meters dug so far—1098 meters from the east and 947 meters from the west.
The project is expected to help unclog part of an artery—the Naubise-Nagdhunga section of the Prithvi Highway, where congestion is rife.
The tunnel road project comprising a main tunnel from Basnetchhap to Sisne Khola and a 2.6 km approach road from Basnetchhap to Thankot will have two 3.5-meter lanes and a 2.5-meter shoulder.
It has not been smooth sailing for the tunnel project, with various factors impeding its progress.
Since Jan 16, construction work has been affected for want of sand and gravel as the government shut down crusher plants operating illegally.
With the government allowing the plants to resume their operation, the project is preparing to resume construction work, including excavation.
Madhav Adhikari, deputy project director of the project, says preparations are afoot to resume tunnel-digging.
The then Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had laid the project’s foundation stone in October 2019, but actual construction work began in December 2020.
As per the project development contract, Hazama-Ando Corporation, the Japanese company tasked with tunnel construction, had to complete the structure within 42 months of starting the work. The construction work suffered due to the Covid-19 pandemic as well. The deadline was extended by an additional 86 days on account of these factors.
The latest progress report of the project indicates that the construction work is unlikely to be completed even within the extended deadline.
In 2016, the Japanese government had agreed to provide a soft loan of Rs 15.28 billion for the project. Of the total project cost of Rs 22.14 billion, the Nepal government is investing Rs 5.85 billion while Japan will be investing for the shortfall.
The Japanese government had signed its official development assistance loan worth Rs 15.28 billion with Nepal for the Nagdhunga Tunnel Construction Project on December 23, 2016, fixing a 40-year repayment period and a 10-year grace period with 0.01 percent annual interest.