How is the Nagdhunga Tunnel project faring?

- By Dibyak Kapali |

Nagdhunga Tunnel Construction Project | Image Source: GEOCE Consultants (P.) Ltd
Nagdhunga Tunnel Construction Project | Image Source: GEOCE Consultants (P.) Ltd

The Nagdhunga Tunnel, considered to be the first modern tunnel in Nepal connecting Satungal (Kathmandu) and Sisnekhola (Dhading) has completed 50.2% of physical works and 54.4% of financial progress, according to the latest update released by the Nagdhunga Tunnel Construction Project. 

Out of the total excavation works, 76.3% have been achieved. 

Funded by the Government of Japan under Official Development Assistance (ODA) through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Nepal government, the project’s overall cost is Rs 22.14 billion where the Nepal government is contributing Rs 5.85 billion while JICA is lending the rest — Rs 16.5 billion (up to JPY 16.636 billion). Under ODA, JICA provides loan assistance to Low-Income Least Developed Countries at an interest rate of 0.01% for 40 years including a 10-years grace period where no interest or installments will be applicable.

Earlier, the Japanese government had provided grant assistance to build the 158 km BP Highway, also known as Banepa-Bardibas Highway and Koteshwor-Suryabinayak road section.

A joint venture (JV) of Nippon Koei, Eight Japan Engineering Consultants, Nippon Civic Consulting Engineer in association with GEOCE Consultants, and ITECO-NEPAL is consulting the construction project while Hazama Ando Corporation, a Japanese construction company is contracted for the construction purpose which was also contracted to build the Banepa-Bardibas Highway and Koteshwor-Suryabinayak road section.

The total length of the main tunnel of the project is 2.68 km long — consisting of two lanes of 3.5m width, median width of 1.5m at the center, and 0.5m wide space on both sides for drainage facility. 

A total of 1,869.8m — about 70% of the total length of the tunnel have been excavated — 893.8m from the east side (Kathmandu) and 976m from the west side (Nagdhunga).

There will also be an evacuation tunnel for emergency services which would be 2.55 km long. 2,127m of the evacuation tunnel has been dug — 1,147m from the east side (Kathmandu) and 980m from the west side (Nagdhunga). 

The project has finished construction of all of the overpass bridges (1), underpass bridges (3), box culverts (4), and bridges (3) while one flyover remains to be finished. 95% compensation for land acquisition and three foundations and two sub-structures have been completed for the flyover.

The tunnels will be equipped with 24-hour ventilation (Jet fan) and lighting system installation while the approach road will have a Michi-No-Eki near West Portal Site. 

Michi-No-Eki is a facility developed in Japan, literally meaning ‘road station’ provided on National Highways/arterial roads for the purpose to integrate parking areas, restrooms (toilets), information, and community facilities provided by local governments. The road station will span  across a 4,650 sq. m. area, and provide space for parking at least eight heavy vehicles and 25 light vehicles, fast food restaurants, shops and toilets.

The project construction began in November 2019 with a 42-months construction period. An agreement was signed between the Department of Roads, Nepal, and Hazama Ando Corporation to complete the project by April 2023. However, the project faced delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic and has been extended to April 25, 2024.

It is anticipated that the tunnel will provide a better alternative and ease traffic congestion and improve vehicular movement in the Naubise-Nagdhunga section which traffic clogs and poor vehicular movement due to poor road conditions, sharp curves, and steep gradients, save travel time and expenses for travelers and cargo vehicles, reduce fuel consumption (petrol and diesel) and expenses on spare parts, and lessen air pollution.

Dibyak Kapali is a researcher and a social media lead at the_farsight and a student of microbiology.

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