The launch of the Nepal-India integrated check point (ICP) in Birgunj scheduled for Sunday has been put off due to unfinished construction work on the Nepal side.
The government had announced through the budget statement for 2017-18 that the Birgunj ICP would be opened at the beginning of the next fiscal year. However, delays in the construction of a link road to the project site have forced the launch date to be postponed.
According to the Nepal Intermodal Transport Development Board (NITDB), the operator of Nepal’s first ICP, the Indian side has been pressurising Nepal to open the ICP by the end of July.
“However, because of delays in the planned widening of a 700-metre road to two lanes, the ICP cannot be opened as scheduled,” said NITDB Executive Director Laxman Bahadur Basnet.
Basnet said construction of around 20 percent of the infrastructure remained to be completed. “The narrow link road to the ICP is likely to hinder cargo movement even if it is opened.”
The delay in construction has been blamed on the slowness of the contractor for the road project. The Department of Roads awarded the contract to upgrade the road to Pappu Construction with a July-end deadline. But the company has not even started work.
According to the NITDB, construction work on the Indian side is almost complete. The warehouse, parking yard, office building, security yard, litigation shed, quarantine and check post at the Birgunj ICP have been built by India at a cost of IRs860 million.
Last February, the Nepal government appointed the NITDB as the caretaker of the ICP. Basnet said the board was in the process of calling for bids to operate the ICP which is expected to take several months. “We have been discussing the operating modality for the ICP till a contract is signed with a private company.”
Nepal and India signed an accord in 2005 to build ICPs straddling the border at Biratnagar, Birgunj, Bhairahawa and Nepalgunj. Under the agreement, there will be matching complexes on both sides of the border. The Indian government had pledged to build the ICPs on the Nepal side too, and the government just had to provide the required land.
The ICP is expected to facilitate trade between Nepal and India and other countries. The ICP on the Indian side was completed last year. Indian authorities have opened a road linking Patna and Birgunj. They have pledged to operate the ICPs on either side of the border and have been considering running the ICP in Birgunj as soon as construction on the Nepal side is completed. Meanwhile, the government has acquired 129 bighas of land to construct an ICP in Biratnagar. The government has spent Rs274.5 million on land compensation.
Basnet said the government had built a retaining wall around the project site. According to him, the government has also finalised the design survey of the ICPs planned to be constructed in Bhairahawa and Nepalgunj.Published: 2017-07-13 08:28:14