10 locations chosen for hill cities

The government has selected 10 locations along the Mid-Hills Highway and north-south link roads in all five development regions to establish new cities. However, the National Planning Commission (NPC) has yet to approve the proposed sites.

Based on a feasibility study carried out by RIBS Engineering Consultant, the Department of Urban Development and Building Construction has proposed Phidim (in Panchthar district), Basantapur (Terhathum), Khurkot (Sindhuli), Baireni Galchhi (Dhading), Dumre (Tanahun), Burtibang (Baglung), Chaurjahari (Rukum), Raakam (Dailekh), Sanfebagar (Achham) and Patan (Baitadi) as potential locations to set up modern cities.

The locations will have a capacity to accommodate a population of 30,000-50,000. The planned modern cities are targeted at reducing the trend of migration from the mountains and hills to the Tarai besides increasing the possibility of developing hilly areas having economic potential. The government had announced in the last fiscal year’s budget speech that 10 townships would be built straddling the Mid-Hills Highway and north-south corridor roads.

The department said that the places had been selected based on criteria such as availability of drinking water sources, land and possibility of future socio-economic development. “The locations were chosen after three steps of filtration taking into consideration the current population, economic importance, road alignments approved by the government and future expansion,” said Deepak Shrestha, senior divisional engineer at the department. “In the first phase, 58 locations were selected, then we shortlisted 20, and now we have selected 10 locations to which the Ministry of Physical Planning and Works, the Ministry of Finance and the NPC are also very positive.”

Earlier, the detailed project report (DPR) of the Mid-Hills Highway had suggested Phidim, Jarayotar, Bhojpur, Ghurmi area, Bhakundebeshi, Kurintar, Kusma, Burtibang, Rukumkot, Chaurjahari, Surkhet, Raakam, Sanfebagar, Dipayal and Patan of Baitadi district to the government as possible sites to be developed into modern cities. “We have incorporated some locations recommended by the Mid-Hills Highway project, however, we have avoided district headquarters and municipalities that are already expanding,” said an official of the Ministry of Physical Planning and Works.

The government has accorded the project high priority and set a target to start integrated physical and social infrastructure development programmes with a budget allocation of around Rs 50 million.

A high-level official at the Ministry of Physical Planning and Works said that they had sought at least Rs 10 million for each proposed city to start buying land from private owners. “We are also keeping our fingers crossed so that the project does not face land acquisition problems like in other projects,” added the official.

As per the agreement with the department, RIBS is scheduled to submit the feasibility study within a month. With the final report, it will also submit DPRs of at least one infrastructure related project in each city approved by the NPC as per the terms of reference. “The consultant will submit DPRs on developing one project each on infrastructure development in the approved locations which can be of drinking water, road or waste management or something else,” said Shrestha.

On March 25, the department had awarded the contract to RIBS to carry out a feasibility study to be completed in five months for a consultancy fee of Rs 4.6 million. The deadline expires on August 28, said the department.

Meanwhile, the department is mulling speeding up work on the 10 cities by setting up a separate project coordination office. The establishment of the cities falls under the first priority project of the government, however, only a small unit of the department has been involved in it.(Source:ekantipur)

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