CHITWAN, Sep 3: Efforts to pave the road within Chitwan National Park (CNP) under the Bharatpur-Madi postal highway project are set to resume after being halted for five years following a Supreme Court order. Shubraj Neupane, director of the Postal Highway Project, disclosed that the work on the Detailed Project Report (DPR) and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is about to recommence, with the Ministry of Forest granting permission for the road’s blacktopping.
Neupane stated, “The Ministry of Forest has approved the EIA study, and we will be sending a letter to Chitwan National Park on Sunday regarding the DPR.” Following approval, the survey work will proceed, involving a collaborative team from the Ministry of Forestry, Postal Highway Road Project, CNP, and People’s Representatives.
To create the DPR, trap cameras will be installed from Dhurbaghat in Bharatpur to Bankatta in Madi to monitor the movement of wildlife in the area. The DPR and EIA will be developed based on data collected during a 15 to 21-day camera trapping period. Neupane emphasized that the park’s unique characteristics require a specialized design, which is also being considered by UNESCO. Construction work will commence only after the survey, design, and EIA phases are completed, and the necessary funding is secured.
Preparing the DPR is estimated to take one year. EIA activities will follow upon the completion of the DPR. Once both reports are finalized, they will be submitted to the central authorities and forwarded to UNESCO for approval. The blacktopping of the road will proceed after obtaining approval from UNESCO.
Currently, there is an eight-kilometer stretch between Kasara and Bankatta in Bharatpur. However, CNP’s Information Officer Ganesh Prasad Tiwari revealed that the park has recommended connecting the old road from Dhurbaghat to Bankatta, which is a shorter route to link Bharatpur-Madi and reduces the impact on wildlife by approximately three kilometers.
The existing road from the Rapti River Bridge at Kasara through Dhurbaghat to the Riu River Bridge at Bankatta is less likely to be paved. The Ministry of Forest and Environment has authorized the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport to prepare an EIA report to reactivate the existing road.
Previously, the Supreme Court had halted road construction due to a lack of coordination with CNP and UNESCO. However, a High Court order in February 2019 instructed the acceleration of road construction activities following an EIA, as stipulated in the Wildlife Friendly Infrastructure Directive of 2078 BS.
The plan includes constructing a wildlife-friendly flyover within the park. The Ministry of Forest and Environment granted permission for the EIA on September 20, 2022, and believes that, with the appropriate procedures and methods in place, the park will not impede the construction of this wildlife-friendly road.
Integrated studies and surveys for the postal road from Dhurbaghat to Madi Thori in Bharatpur are currently in progress. Madi Municipality has also been actively advocating for the road’s blacktopping within the park, even meeting with the Prime Minister to request its continuation. Tara Kumari Kaji Mahato, chairperson of Madi Municipality, stated that the annual cost of repairing the road is approximately Rs 5 million when it remains unpaved. Currently, travel on this road is challenging, with nighttime closures to traffic.