Kathmandu- The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a loan of $195 million to improve the highway section between Pokhara and Mugling, which links Pokhara to Kathmandu and to sub-regional corridors connecting Nepal with India and Bangladesh.
“The project will boost the traffic capacity, reliability, and safety of the main road link from Pokhara,” said ADB Transport Specialist Johan Georget, adding, “The highway will be widened to four lanes, and this will reduce travel times, lower transport costs, and improve access to domestic markets, jobs, and social services.”
As per ADB, the upgraded highway will also open a wider gateway for Nepal to international markets, especially in India, and facilitate the arrival of tourists to the region of Pokhara and its hinterland.
As a landlocked country, Nepal relies heavily on direct neighbours for international trade, mainly India, which traded 65 per cent of Nepal’s imports and exports the last fiscal year. But while roads are the predominant mode of transport in Nepal for more than 90 per cent of goods and passengers, ADB said that the density and capacity of the road network remains low.
“This infrastructure deficiency hampers the economy, resulting in high operating costs and travel times, and impeding the development of competitive supply chains, tourism, and regional integration and trade,” said ADB in a statement.
The 200-kilometre journey from Pokhara to Kathmandu takes more than five hours by road. It is currently a two-lane highway that handles about 7,400 vehicles a day. As the number of vehicle registrations has been rising and total vehicles are expected to quadruple by 2029, upgrading national highways is a priority to support economic development, as per ADB.
Under this project, 81 km of the road will be widened to four lanes from Pokhara to Abukhaireni to meet increasing demand. Improvements will be made to the surfacing, structure, and drainage, with safety features such as crash barriers, and traffic and other warning light systems installed. A second eight-kilometre section between Mugling and Abukhaireni will be considered for a subsequent project.
The road will be divided by a median, while service lanes in urban areas will improve safety, especially for pedestrians, bicycles, and motorcycle users. This is especially important since the country suffers a high rate of almost 16 deaths per 100,000 people due to traffic. The project will also instal a landslide monitoring and management system to strengthen disaster resilience. The total cost of the project is $254 million, of which government will provide $59 million. The project is due for completion at the end of 2025.
Accompanying the loan is an ADB technical assistance grant of $500,000 to strengthen disaster risk reduction, landslide management, road safety, and procurement in the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport and the Department of Roads.
The Himalayan Times