Nepal Table of Contents
Nepal's first paved road was built with aid from India in the early 1950s. It connected Kathmandu with Raxaul on the Indian border. As of 1997, additional roads were being built, primarily with the cooperation of India but also the United States, including an East-West Highway through southern portions of the country. Other roads, in various stages of planning, construction, or already completed, were built with assistance from Saudi Arabia, India, Britain, the Soviet Union, Switzerland, China, the United States, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank.
Prior to the First Five-Year Plan, Nepal had approximately 600 kilometers of roads, including fair weather roads. Although targets were rarely met on time, road construction has increased. By midJuly 1989, approximately 2,900 kilometers of paved roads, 1,600 kilometers of gravel roads, and 2,500 kilometers of earthen (fair weather) roads were in existence. Most goods and passengers utilized these roads, and transit no longer was exclusively through India.
The main roads consisted of east-west and north-south highways. The longest highway was the Mahendra Highway, or East-West Highway. Its total proposed length was approximately 1,050 kilometers, of which 850 kilometers were completed as of 1989. The 114-kilometer Arniko Highway, which connected Kathmandu with Kodari on the Chinese border, was constructed with Chinese assistance. The Siddhartha Highway was constructed with India's help and connected the Pokhara Valley with Sonauli in India's Uttar Pradesh state. Some of the other completed highways (rajmarg) running eastwest were the Tribhuvan-Rajpath, Prithvi, and Kodari highways. Among north-south highways, Gorkha-Narayangadh, Kohalpur-Surkhet, Sindhuli-Bargachi, and Dhangadhi-Dadeldhura roads were mostly completed in the early 1990s. A number of north-south roads were being constructed to connect with the east-west Mahendra Highway.
Because of the terrain, the building and maintenance of roads was very expensive. Landslides in hilly areas during monsoon season were very common. There were also several rivers and creeks running from north to south whose levels during monsoon season were difficult to predict. All these factors caused periodic slowdowns in the movement of trucks and buses. Nevertheless, as a result of road expansion, several private firms ran passenger buses and trucks to transport goods. From 1980 to 1990, the number of passenger vehicles increased by more than 100 percent. During FY 1990, new vehicle registrations included 723 buses and minibuses, 240 trucks, and 1,831 jeeps, cars, and pickup vans.
Data as of September 1991