Quake-hit Nepal looks at Pak to deal with damaged roads

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Kathmandu, May 9: With its crucial road link badly damaged in the quake, Nepal authorities are studying Pakistan's past experience of tackling the issue, especially due to fears of more landslides in hilly areas during the upcoming monsoon season.

Nepal's road network is its lifeline as the country does not have a railway link unlike many nations. India and China are working to connect the nation with the rail line. Some 2,000 kms of roads have been damaged due to the April 25 temblor.

Pakistan

Of this, around 200 kms were damaged severely. After the powerful 7.9-magnitude earthquake, many areas in Nepal witnessed landslides, whose number is expected to increase in many interior parts as monsoon sets in next month.

Nepal has some 15,000 kms of 'strategic roads' maintained by the Department of Roads that comes under the Ministry of Transport. The country has 21 highways and 208 feeder roads.

These 'strategic roads' connect to border areas and district headquarters among other key locations in the country. The roads that suffered maximum damage in the temblor are in Gorkha, Sindhupalchowk, Nuwakot and Rasuwa districts - the areas worst hit by the country's worst disaster in over 80 years.

However, these roads do not include the interior roads. The Department of Road will be relying on the experience from Pakistan when the country's Baluchistan area witnessed earthquakes measuring 6.4 and 7.7 on the Richter scale, in 2008 and 2013 respectively, killing hundreds.

The area also became prone to landslide after the quakes. "Officials of the department are studying how Pakistan tackled the problem of damaged roads," said Madhav Karki, Director General of the Department of Roads.

"The Arniko Highway which connects to the China border and Nepal and Kathmandu Narayanghat highway close to the Indian border had some cracks, but they were quickly repaired and traffic was restored," Karki said.

Keshav Sharma, Deputy Director General of the Department said: "There is a patch of 15 kms which still has boulders and gravel on it and we are working to clear the patch." But the real challenge lies during the monsoon in the hilly areas that have already developed cracks.

"Once water enters these cracks, the soil will loosen up leading to landslides. We have lessons from Pakistan when the country witnessed earthquake and subsequent landslides after that. "We have already alerted our maintenance division to deal with such exigencies and have kept earthmovers, other equipment and construction material on standby," added Sharma.

PTI

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