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Trail Bridge in Nepal

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    What is Trail Bridge? For any country to develop and prosper infrastructure is needed. And transport infrastructure is globally recognized as the must for development. Due to the physiological difficulties road transport is only the feasible and viable means of transportation in Nepal. Unfortunately, given the topography of Nepal, construction of road transport network in every part of the country is neither technically feasible nor economical. The only reliable means of transport for the hill and rural population is foot trails.

    Rivers and streams crisscross foot trails, which are approximately 6000 all around the country and hence, Trail bridges are needed. Trial bridges is a type of bridge, which provides uninterrupted transport access facilities to the people, pedestrian, animals, these bridges are constructed along the foot trails, which provides safe durable and comfortable means of river crossings to the people. Why Trail Bridge? Settlements are near the rivers and streams, as from the history of civilization it is known that, civilizations which are along the rivers only flourished.

    In Nepal, because of its physiology settlements reside along the river side, which are on the hills or mountains of the river bank. And during rainy season the settlement on one side of the river could not get to the other end. In order to do so, people traditionally tried to overcome such constrain. They used tree trunk, wooden logs, bamboo across the river to get to other side, which was too risky and unsafe, as during rainy season the surface of such logs or trunks get slippery and wet. Many lives were lost just because of there were no safe means to cross the river.

    Nepal has unique topography, construction of road network throughout every nuke and corner of the country is neither economical nor technically viable. Many of the rural population that may be on hills, mountains or terai has to rely on foot trails to travel for their livelihood, and because of the fact that Nepal has over 6000 rivers and streams, those foot trails has to cross the rivers in order to get to their destination. In such foot trails people are forced to cross the rivers risking their life on tuins, wooden planks, etc. To construct heavy bridge are neither economically desirable nor logically feasible.

    Therefore trail bridges are the only logical means to get along on those foot trails. Trail bridges are safe, technically sound and economical for such routes. And easy to construct, with local materials and local man power with an expert’s supervision, makes it more desirable and popular. How it was started? People always travel around for better opportunity, better living, etc. communities living across the river to the market area, people living in other side to the market area has to cross it many times in order to get services.

    On such important trail, people used plank or bamboo to get the services provided by the market quickly. Thus bridge building has been the tradition of the Bibek Ghimire Page 1 people, as river separates every settlement in hilly as well as mountainous area. Planned trail bridges in engineered way were constructed only after 1960 AD. Before 1960 People build the trail bridges applying their indigenous knowledge and used their own technology. They made bamboo bridges, cantilever bridges and even chain bridges in some parts of the country.

    During Rana regime, they tried to bring modern technology in bridge building, so they brought bridges manufactured in Scotland, which were dispatched as parcel to Nepal, were erected at sites. After 1960 The United States Operation Mission (USOM) was first to Launch trial bridge program. HELVETAS Engineer built pilot bridge. Suspension Bridge Division (SBD) was established in 1964 AD. Government of Nepal and Swiss Association for Technical Assistance (SATA) signed an agreement to work in this field in 1977AD. HELVETAS established Suspension Bridge Program for helping SATA to achieve its mandate.

    In 1980’s study of trails and construction of different trail maps were carried out, during this decade HELVETAS launched the project called “Bridge Building at Local Level (BBLL)”. During 1990’s the trail bridge building program adopted another policy of “Privatization and Decentralization of trail bridge building. ” At the end part of this decade, DoLIDAR was established and bridge building program was part of it. 2000’s onward government adopted another policy of “Demarcation of technology and Sector Wide Approach (SWAp)”.

    National Trail Bridge Strategy was prepared and enforced since 2006 AD, Trail bridge Strategy Information System (TBSIS) which is a computerized database for monitoring application of Trail Bridge Strategy was developed. Nepal established a unit namely “South-South Collaboration unit” for collaborating with other countries in the field of pedestrian bridge building. Our achievement till date Few days ago, at Basantapur durbar square in the presence of Deputy prime minister, Swiss ambassador and other high ranking officials, we celebrated the construction of more than 5000 trail bridges in Nepal.

    In last 5 decades, we came along a far distance ahead, from the era of crossing rivers on wooden planks to highly safe trail bridges, even in the harsh topography. Bibek Ghimire Page 2 The achievements in terms of number is that construction of more than 5000 trail bridges across the country, itself is a huge achievement. Today we can find trail bridges in great plain of terai, where the river is spread in widthwise, which required long span and multi span bridges. We can find trail bridges in hilly areas where construction of any kind of structure looks impossible.

    We can find trail bridges in mountainous areas where transportation of any kind materials take weeks to reach. The social achievements of these many trail bridge can be seen from the fact that 3 to 4 hours walk to cross the river came down to just few minutes. Children no longer has to walk hours or risk their lives on the dangerous twin travel to get to their school, People now do not have to die while crossing the rivers during monsoon. Bed-ridden or sick people are no longer carried for hours to reach the health post on the other side of river.

    Problems we face in building trail bridges and solution. Trail bridge building has had been the part of the culture of Nepal. And many donor agencies come forward in helping us building trail bridges in Nepal, among them HELVETAS, DFID are ahead in this sector. And the government of Nepal also addresses the requirement of trial bridges, as the government has formulated policy for complete replacements of tuins. In spite of the government and other agencies come forward in helping the building of trail bridges, we face different difficulties and problem while building trail bridges.

    Lack of skill man power Traditionally, people, in order to overcome the physical constrain, has used indigenous technology for the construction of bridges. Only after 1960’s the technicians has used the modern techniques while constructing trail bridges. Only the few years back, to standardize the construction of trail brides, the design guidelines were formulated. But still we lack the skilled man power in the construction of trail bridges; there is just little skilled labor available that has the techniques to construct Trail Bridge.

    In order to produce many skill man powers in the sector of trail bridge construction, the skill development trainings should be given to the people, who have enthusiasm to work in this sector. Lack of resources In the country like Nepal, the main constrain in the development of infrastructure, is the minimum amount of money they have allocated from the national budget. Also enough machinery is not available to make the parts of the bridges, in time. And due to the physiological constrains, the transportation of resources on the construction site takes months to reach.

    To overcome such constrains, the government need to find alternative source to allocate appropriate amount of budget for the infrastructure development, and also government need to encourage the private sector to come forward in the construction of parts of the bridges. Bibek Ghimire Page 3 Undue Political pressure One of the major problems while building a bridge is the undue political pressure the politicians give, as they want to secure their vote bank. For the sake of their vote bank, they use building trial bridge in their constitution area, as the popular agenda.

    In order to do so they put undue pressure to the trail bridge building agency. The politicians should be committed in achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG), rather than on taking their own political advantage from it. The politicians should abide by the plans the National Planning Committee, put forward in achieving the MGD. Maintenance The stakeholders give least priority to maintenance work, as they are focused on increasing the number. Therefore there is less budget allocation for the maintenance work. Also the lack of documentation and information are major problem in maintenance management system.

    One of the problems may be late disbursement of maintenance fund and they are inadequate too. The stakeholders should give much weight-age on maintenance work than new construction, as the cost to maintain a trail bridge is much less compared to new construction if the bridge is completely unusable. What is the future forward? With the increase of economic activities, even in the rural part of the country, the accessibility is felt of utmost need. The trial bridges provide the entrepreneur to flourish even in the rural area of Nepal.

    The trail bridges once was just use to cross the rivers, now can be a potential medium in the achieving the higher GDP of the country. The 2 wheel motorized vehicles, now are the reliable transport means even in the harsh topology, the future trail bridges should be able to carter such 2 wheel motorized vehicles with adequate safety to operate. In the country like Nepal where there are nearly 6000 rivers and streams which crisscross this Himalayan kingdom, the scope of trail bridges always remain most significant. Bibek Ghimire Page 4

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