ADB to lend $195m for highways project in Nepal


The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a loan of $195m for improving the highway network between Pokhara and Mugling in Nepal.

The road will link Pokhara to Kathmandu and to subregional corridors connecting Nepal with India and Bangladesh.

The 200km journey from Pokhara, a prime tourist destination at the foot of the Himalayas, to Kathmandu takes more than five hours by road. Currently, there is a two-lane highway that handles nearly 7,400 vehicles a day.

As the number of vehicle registrations is rising, the total number of vehicles is expected to quadruple by 2029, necessitating an upgrade of national highways to support economic development.

Under the project, 81km of the road will be widened to accommodate four lanes from Pokhara to Abukhaireni. Improvements will also be made to the surfacing, structure and drainage. Safety measures such as crash barriers and traffic and other warning light systems will be installed.

A second 8km section between Mugling and Abukhaireni is being considered for a subsequent project.

The road will be divided by a median, while service lanes in urban areas will improve safety, mainly for pedestrians, bicycles and motorcycle users. This is also important, as Nepal witnesses 16 deaths per 100,000 people due to heavy traffic.

Maintenance contracts for five years, based on performance, are expected to strengthen road management and maintenance. Under the project, landslide monitoring and management system to strengthen disaster resilience are also expected to be installed.

ADB transport specialist Johan Georget said: “The project will boost the traffic capacity, reliability, and safety of the main road link from Pokhara. 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.

“The upgraded highway will also open a wider gateway for Nepal to international markets, especially in India, and facilitate the arrivals of tourists to the region of Pokhara and its hinterland.”

The economic growth in Nepal has also improved to 7.3% a year on average between fiscal years 2017 and 2019, compared to 3.3% in the previous three years. As a landlocked country, it relies on its immediate neighbours for international trade, mainly India, with which Nepal traded 65% of imports and exports for FY2019.

Roads are the main medium for transport in Nepal for more than 90% of goods and passengers, but the density and capacity of the road network remains low.

Such deficiency in infrastructure can hamper the economy, resulting in high operating costs and travel times, affecting the development of competitive supply chains, tourism and regional integration and trade.


Image: ADB supports Nepal in strengthening highway network. Photo: Courtesy of David Mark/Pixabay.

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