Switzerland helped Nepal build 10,000 bridges
Last November, Nepal opened its 10,000th trail bridge. Switzerland has been providing support to help Nepal construct bridges since the 1960s. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) will bring this successful long-term project to a close at the end of 2023. This means the Nepalese government will now assume full responsibility for funding and constructing bridges.
Switzerland has more than 60 years of successful international cooperation with Nepal, a country with a very rugged topography and over 6,000 rivers and streams.
These bridges have made it easier for people in remote areas to access healthcare and education and have boosted business. Switzerland's approach has changed considerably over the years. Although the SDC initially implemented construction projects itself, the focus soon shifted to empowering local communities.
Since Nepal's federal constitution was enacted in 2015, Switzerland's cooperation work has also strengthened the powers of Nepal's federal and provincial governments and municipal authorities in constructing, maintaining and operating bridges. The original approach, which solely addressed the technical aspects, has therefore expanded to encompass citizen participation and good governance.
Given that the Nepalese authorities now have the necessary resources and technical know-how to continue the work, the SDC will cease to support the country's bridge construction at the end of 2023.
The 10,000 bridges constructed have cut average travel times by 2.5 hours, which has improved living standards for around 19 million people over the long term. The construction of a new suspension bridge has also enabled 16 per cent more children, on average, to walk to school and increased health centre attendance by 26 per cent. Furthermore, one out of every five bridges has attracted traders to the area who have set up new stores, food stalls and workshops.
Technical assistance provided by Helvetas in cooperation with Nepalese engineers
In 2023 – the year in which Switzerland ends its support – a record 750 bridges have been built, with the construction work fully funded by the Nepalese government. Switzerland has solely contributed technical know-how and expertise in methods of implementation, quality assurance and maintenance. It also provided training to enable the relevant authorities to continue the work independently beyond 2023.
The Swiss development organisation Helvetas has provided technical assistance for the project. Together with Nepalese engineers, Helvetas is now exporting the know-how acquired to other countries, including Ethiopia, Bhutan and Guatemala, as part of a South-South cooperation project.
More information on the “building bridges programme” of Switzerland can be found here
and on the Website of Helvetas
See also article by Helvetas on the bridges programme