by Zhou Shengping, Shristi Kafle
SURKHET, Nepal, April 15 (Xinhua) -- Forty-six-year-old Lila Ram Acharya, a resident of a small village at Babai valley, around one hour drive from Nepal's western city Nepalgunj, still remembers how hopeless he was as the good man of the house about three years ago.
Born in a poor family, he was a grade-three dropout without a skill, which made him always at an idle end. His wife Laxmi Jaisi is illiterate and their two sons are studying at schools.
Slender earnings from both the land and in and out work at his homeland were far from being enough to cover all the household expenses.
The pressure to prepare the sons' tuition and support the family forced Acharya to travel to India where he worked for a few months but earned a little.
When one door shuts, another opens. Their fate changed after the Bheri Babai Diversion Multipurpose Project (BBDMP), one of Nepal's national pride projects was inaugurated in June, 2015, with an aim to enhance agricultural production by providing year-round irrigation and generating reliable electricity.
For this one of the strategic projects of this Himalayan nation, the contractor, Chinese constructor China Overseas Engineering Group Co. Ltd. has been using tunnel boring machine (TBM) for the first time in Nepal to dig a 12.2-km tunnel which allows surplus water in Bheri river flow into Babai river.
This unprecedented inter-basin water transfer project conceptualized to provide round-the-year irrigation facility to 51,000 hectares of agricultural land of Banke and Bardiya districts.
"I am working here as a labor since last two years. The job is good, so as the income. As compared to the past, life is far better now," Acharya told Xinhua at the construction site.
Among the over 2,100 local people recruited for the project of national significance, Acharya is one of the 600 workers working in the site currently. Every evening, he boards a company train with 40 minutes ride to reach inside the 12.2 km long tunnel, where he is stationed.
The father of two sons works for 12 hours every day inside the tunnel and earns up to Rs. 35,000 (around 350 U.S. dollars) every month including over-time works, which is nearly three times more than the minimum labor wage fixed by the Nepali government that stands at Rs. 13,450 per month.
While Acharya is busy with the project job, his wife 36-years-old Laxmi Jaisi operates a hotel, serving local workers with typical Nepali food rice and curry. Under help from his husband, Laxmi arranges two meals a day for those constant customers.
"It is a good income for us to educate our sons," Laxmi told Xinhua while preparing lunch box at the hotel, adding that life is better than before. The couple, who got married some 22 years ago, now can afford the living and education costs of their two sons in the nearby cities.
The Chinese contractor also helped them to construct a new concrete house with four rooms in Chepang village, just across the Babai River. Wisely enough, they rented out two rooms.
The rent business is a by-product of this big project that has infused a new life into the village, turning a once almost-deserted nook full of traditional mud houses into a small modern town with concrete buildings, like Acharya's at present.
Saligram Adhikari, Mayor of Basgadhi municipality of Bardiya district, told Xinhua, "The project is linked with villages where people are mostly poor. They have received employment opportunities with good income."
At a time when most of the people in nearby villages were either unemployed or engaged in agriculture in small scale or had moved to the Gulf and Middle East in search of employment opportunities, the Chinese constructed project has provided jobs to over 2,100 locals.
According to the project manager Hu Tianran, the main part of the project is at the final phase. Acharya, however, doesn't worry about losing his job anymore.
He said confidently that he would find another similar job without difficulty in other projects since now he has the skills that he learnt from his Chinese colleagues on the construction site during the past two years.