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  Contractor starts design work, construction of Siddhababa tunnel way to begin from next February

China State Engineering Construction Corporation, the contractor of the Siddhababa tunnel way on the Butwal-Palpa road section, has started the design work of the tunnel. The Chinese company won the contract on February 13, 2022 to build the tunnel in the Engineering Procurement Construction (EPC) model. As per the contract agreement, the contractor company will have to prepare the design of the tunnel within nine months.

Saurabh Bajracharya, senior divisional engineer of the Quality Research and Development Center under the Road Department, said that the design of the tunnel is underway. “The contractor company has to submit the design of the tunnel by December 2022,” he said, adding, “It will take about two months’ time to review the design submitted by the contractor company.”

Engineer Bajracharya said that the construction work of the tunnel will move ahead as soon as the Department of Roads approves the design prepared by the contractor. "We are currently working on the geo-technical mapping of the tunnel," he said, “The contractor company is working on a detailed design of the tunnel after conducting the necessary studies.”

The Center has stated that a study is being carried out on the impact of the construction of the tunnel on the area around the Siddhababa temple. "It will be known as soon as the study report comes out whether to demolish some of the structures around the temple," he said.

The Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport has allocated Rs 746.5 million for the tunnel in the annual program of the coming Fiscal Year. Engineer Bajracharya said that there would be no shortage of budget for the construction of Siddhababa tunnel in the coming fiscal year.

"The government has allocated a budget of Rs 750 million for the next fiscal year," he said, "There will be no shortage of budget for tunnel construction this year as time will be spent on design for the next six months."

The contract for the construction of Siddhababa tunnel was signed by the Chinese company at a cost of Rs 7.34 billion on March 20. Four companies were included in the technical selection for the construction of the tunnel. Kovek-CREGC JV had proposed Rs 7.79 billion, CCECC and 14 Xuan China JV Rs 9.80 billion and First Highway Engineering Rs 11.73 billion. China State was chosen as the lowest bidder among those who submitted technical proposals. According to the Public Procurement Act, the contractor company that promised to build the tunnel at the lowest cost was selected for the construction of the tunnel. The contractor company was selected only nine months after the Center called for a global tender for the tunnel. The Center has planned to complete the construction of the tunnel within a period of five years. One opening of the tunnel will be near Chidiya Khola in the south of the Siddhababa temple under the Butwal-Tansen section. Another opening will be near Dobhan. The length of this tunnel will be 1.126 kilometers.

The tunnel will be two lanes or 7.5 meters wide. The contractor company will have to prepare the structure of the rock set in the 780 meters area along with the tunnel. The existing road will be widened to two lanes. According to the center, not only the tunnel but also the two-lane road will be widened in this section.

The then Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada made a ministerial decision and ensured a budget of Rs 10.15 billion for the construction of Siddhababa tunnel on November 16, 2020. There is a high risk of landslides in the section from Upper Siddhababa Temple to Dobhan under the Siddhartha Highway. Dozens of people are losing their lives every year due to landslides in the winter and rainy season in that section. More than 450 people have lost their lives in landslides in this section so far.

Engineer Bajracharya said that the journey on this section will be risk-free as soon as the tunnel is constructed. The Butwal-Palpa road section is being damaged by landslides every year. Many people are losing their lives due to landslides in this section. Landslides along the Butwal-Palpa section cause a great loss of lives and property every year.

Geological and pre-feasibility studies were carried out in the area from the Upper Siddhababa Temple to Ramapithecus Park with the development assistance of the Swiss government. The Swiss Agency for Development and Corporation had conducted a pre-feasibility study of the Siddhababa tunnel. The Center has started the construction of the tunnel based on the same pre-feasibility study.

[11 July, 2022 / nagariknetwork.com]   
 
 
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