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Nepal, Japan agree to involve local firms

  • Nagdhunga-Naubise tunnel road project
- PRITHVI MAN SHRESTHA, KATHMANDU

Feb 7, 2015-

Nepal and Japan have agreed to involve Nepali contractors in the building of the proposed Nagdhunga-Naubise tunnel road. The construction project will bore a 2.5-km tunnel under the hills on the western side of the Kathmandu valley and eliminate the winding mountain route which is currently the main access to the Capital.

Nepal has also requested Japan to fund the project, and although it has not yet decided to do so, it has shown great interest in being associated with the planned tunnel road.

Officials of both the government and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) said that there had been a “gentleman’s agreement” to involve Nepali companies if the project is implemented with Japanese funding.

As per the understanding, the international contractor that wins the construction contract will have to tie up with a Nepali joint venture partner and help in transferring tunnel technology to Nepal and enhancing the capacity of local companies.

“JICA itself had proposed to involve Nepali contractors because Nepal needs many tunnel roads, and the transfer of technology will help it build other tunnels on its own later,” said a source at the Japanese aid agency.

Another proposed road project involving the building of a tunnel is the Kathmandu-Hetauda tunnel road which is being implemented by the private sector. This route will cut travel time between the Capital and the industrial and transport hub to the south.  

Japan’s keen interest in developing the Nagdhunga-Naubise tunnel road is shown by the flurry of visits to Japan it has arranged in the last few months for Nepali ministers and senior government officials to observe tunnel technology there.

Following the visits of Physical Infrastructure Minister Bimalendra Nidi last year and secretaries of various ministries to Japan a few months ago, another government team from the Department of Roads is currently there to get a close look at tunnel technology. Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat is also scheduled to depart for Japan on Saturday for the same purpose.

Meanwhile, government officials said that the two countries could sign a loan agreement to build the Nagdhunga-Naubise tunnel road in March. Although the shorter tunnel route would be highly desirable and a landmark construction project for Nepal, it is expected to cost a pile of money.

According to a preliminary study made by a consultant hired by JICA, the project will cost around Rs 15 billion. “The civil work alone is expected to cost Rs 12.88 billion while another Rs 2 billion is expected to be spent on land acquisition and other things,” said Bhuwan Karki, under secretary at the Finance Ministry, who is overseeing the project.

However, officials said that the government was ready to move ahead with the construction despite the steep price tag for its prestige value. According to them, the consultant has proposed building a three-lane carriageway inside the tunnel plus a service track.

Hopeful of receiving Japanese assistance for the project, the government a few days ago invited expressions of interest from international consultants to do a detailed design and supervise the construction. Preparing a detailed design, supervising the project, preparing the bid documents and assisting the government in procurement will be the consultant’s key responsibilities.

Published: 07-02-2015 10:27

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