Despite top govt priority, infra growth dismal

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    KATHMANDU, JUL 11 –

    Energy-Poll-LinesGrowth in power and infrastructure sectors, which have received top government priority, has been disappointing.

    Not a single megawatt of electricity was added in the first eight months of this fiscal year, according to Economic Survey 2013-14. Although the government has issued licences to 81 hydropower projects with a combined capacity of 2,150MW, the country is currently producing just 746MW.

    Similar is the situation with irrigation, road and communication sectors. As of mid-March, only 334km was added to the country’s road network. Over the period, 136km of gravelled roads and 334km of fair-weathered roads were built, while blacktopping was done on 51km.

    In the whole last fiscal year, 876km fair-weathered, 620km gravelled and 467km blacktopped roads were constructed. With the addition of new roads, the length of the country’s road network has reached 25,599 km, including 10,810 km blacktopped (42.23 percent), 5,925km gravelled (23.15 percent) and 8,864km fair-weathered (34.63 percent) roads. On the irrigation front, 7,948 hectares of land received the facility, down from 9,585 hectares during the same period in the last fiscal year.

    The government, however, has targeted to provide irrigation facility to 17,000 hectares of land this year through community irrigation programme. The programme aims at helping farmers from poor and deprived communities in 12 districts.

    Economist Bishwambhar Pyakuryal said the current rate of growth in the infrastructure sector is not satisfactory at a time when the country is facing a huge investment gap in the sector.

    Nepal needs $13-18 billion from 2011-2020 to bridge the investment gap in infrastructure, according to a new World Bank study.

    “As the government aims at graduating Nepal into a developing country by 2022, the slow progress in the infrastructure sector could be a big hurdle to meet the target,” said Pyakurel.

    As far as telecommunications is concerned, a total of 23 million new telephone lines (both landline and wireless) were distributed. However, the government fell short of its target of expanding internet services due to slow progress in expanding the optical fibre network.

    The government had aimed at expanding optical fibre coverage to 65 district headquarters, but only 47 were covered as of the mid-March. Nonetheless, the number of internet users rose to 8.14 million, 30.7 percent of the total population.

    As part of its East-West Electric Railway plan, the government has started the construction of bed-track on a 5-km stretch of the Simara-Bardibas section of the railway. The work is expected to be completed in the next two years. The DPR of Simra-Butwal (179km) and Butwal-Bhairahawa segments (44 km) has already been completed.

    The Economic Survey said the government would soon call for expression of interest to select a consultant to carry out DPR for the Butwal-Gaddhachauki (421 km) segment.

    Source : The Kathmandu Post