Thursday, February 21, 2013

New infrastructure and economic activities

Here is an interesting news story about the multiplier effect from increased road connectivity. Want to boost local economic activities and income? Connect villages and districts with new and better infrastructure (roads, bridges, telephone, irrigation, etc.). The news story states that income of orange farmers has gone up five folds after increased connectivity. There are positive externalities as well (e.g., new education institutions are established).

The construction of the Surkhet-Jumla stretch of the Karnali Highway has brought about tangible changes in the lives of locals of Pili and surrounding villages in Kalikot district. The Pili village has now become a business hub for the eastern belt of the district, where people from over two dozen VDCs run hotels, stationery shops and groceries.
As local produce now reaches the market with ease, locals have started adopting agriculture and animal husbandry and have bought plots of land in towns such as the district headquarters of Manma and Surkhet with the income. The price of land in Pili has also gone up, thanks to the road access.
Local farmer Jaya Bahadur Shahi said locals are  now finding it easier to ferry their produce to Jumla and elsewhere after a suspension bridge was built at Talasera, linking Pili with Gela VDC.
Farmer Padam Malla said that earlier they sold an orange for Rs 1, but now the same orange goes for Rs 5.
The Kalika Secondary School (KSS) has been established in the village itself, giving the local children easy access to education. Earlier, the children had to walk four hours to the nearest lower and secondary level schools. Local teacher Purna Bahadur Shahi said the road has helped people “become independent.”
Hamsha Bahadur Shahi, headmaster of the KSS, said the new road has kept local people in the villages as now they don’t have to look for job opportunities elsewhere.
Local resident Raj Bahadur Malla echoed Shahi and recalled how he had to set out for India in search of jobs in the past. “I am now earning Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 a month here,” said Raj Bahadur, who runs a hotel and a grocery store in his 12-room house in Pili.

Now, with the new infrastructure in place, there also should be enough funds for operation and maintenance of such infrastructure. It will help ensure sustainability of such productive investments.