Posted by Astha Ramaiya
The second east-to-west highway is currently being constructed in Nepal, with an estimated completion date of sometime in the next year. The 1700 km road is a central hill highway, and only the second highway to cross the country. The road starts at Chiyo in Panchthar, and links Kathmandu, Pokhara, Rukum, all the way to Jhulaghat in Baitadi. When completed, the highway will connect 25 districts in the hilly regions, and will include Achham, making this the first highway to ever pass through the region where Nyaya works.
Read more about the road construction in The Himalayan Times here
While a separate east-to-west highway was built several years ago, it did not pass through Achham, a lost opportunity for the Achhami people. The advent of a highway in the remote areas of the Far West region presents the local populations with an opportunity for significant development, both economically and socially. However, caution should be taken to protect the individuals who live in the areas where construction is being undertaken and protect the workers building the highway.
Economically, the highway will facilitate the transportation of goods to and from the region, and in particular, will help local agricultural development by enabling farmers to send their produce to regional towns and cities for sale. This improved transportation network will also aid in the development of regional social services such as education, and utility services such as water and electricity. The poor state of the current road network in Achham makes it difficult to construct additional infrastructure and facilities; this new highway will help to ameliorate these problems.
For Nyaya’s own work in developing healthcare capacity in Achham, this new highway is very exciting. Currently, Nyaya struggles with the challenges of poor transportation networks. The lack of good roads makes it very difficult to develop reliable supply chains for pharmaceuticals and medical equipment. Moreover, Nyaya constantly sees patients who require higher levels of medical care than we are currently able to provide, but due to the poor road quality, transporting these patients to other regional hospitals involves long delays and high costs. While we have recently started an ambulance service to help deal with this problem, even our ambulance is unable to travel to many regions of the district due to the fragmented road network. This new highway will help to connect our patients to better health services, both locally and outside of our region at the large hospitals in urban centers.
Having said that, it is important that the construction of this highway minimize the risk to the populations nearby, who may be negatively affected. This includes individuals who currently reside in the area and the individuals who are involved in making the road. We hope that the government will do their best to protect the individuals involved in this great development project, such that all can appreciate the potential benefits of this work.
For the people of Nepal, and specifically of Achham, the construction of this new highway is a victory and an impressive step forward. We applaud the government’s work for the population and hope that we will continue to see more community-centered development work occurring in the Far West, while still respecting the needs and traditions of the local populations. We look forward to continually working with the government and supporting this type of work.