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Officials: Feasibility study to be over in two months

  • Nepal-India Inland waterways
- SURESH RAJ NEUPANE, NEW DELHI

Sep 22, 2018-

The feasibility study for developing inland waterways from Indian sea ports to the Nepal border via Koshi and Narayani rivers will be completed within two months, officials have said.

The feasibility report would lead to further study on the possibility of movement of cargo ships from Indian sea ports to the Nepal border via the two biggest rivers of Nepal.

Nepal and India had entered into an agreement to develop inland water navigation during the state visit of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli to India in April this year. After the deal, the two sides held one round of meeting in Kathmandu and decided to prepare the feasibility study before exploring the possibility of developing waterways, particularly from Haldiya to the Nepal border.

The study will address the issues of operating such waterways and the volume of cargo shipments. In the initial phase, the Indian Inland Water Authority is exploring the possibility of navigation via Hanumannagar on Koshi and Balmiki Nagara on Narayani, also called Gandak River in India.

“The Indian side has communicated to us that the feasibility study will be completed within two months,” said Madhav Belbase, joint-secretary at the Water and Energy Commission.

Balbase is in India, leading a Nepali delegation, to conduct a field study for exploring the possibility of navigation.

The feasibility study will ascertain viability of the project, capacity of ships or vessels, difficulties in operating such channels and measures for mitigating hassles.

Experts have said that ships of 600 metric ton capacity can be brought from Haldiya to the Nepali border on the two rivers.

According to Belbase, the Indian side will submit the feasibility report at a meeting to be held in Kathmandu in November. The project would gain momentum after receiving the report, he added.

Technically it is feasible to develop Koshi, Narayani and Karnali rivers as inland waterways but experts say it is not economically viable to use Karnali for the purpose.

In Karnali, the length of waterway will be over 600 kilometres from Tikapur in Nepal to Ganga River in India, said officials.

During the field survey, officials identified that old infrastructure on the river such as bridges can create problems. The depth of Koshi and Narayani rivers would also have to be considered before sailing ships there. To overcome the challenges, the Indian side is said to have proposed that Nepal conduct a field survey to bring in ships from Haldiya, one of the major Indian sea ports that Nepal uses to export goods to, and import from, third countries.

The Indian side will allow Nepal to use its infrastructure to transport goods until the country develops its own in its rivers. The Nepali side toured the infrastructure from Varanasi to Calcutta to inspect the infrastructure on the Indian side, said Belbase.

India has already taken initiates to develop 111 waterways.

Building infrastructure in these rivers is either in the final stage of completion or construction works have begun. Once completed, Nepal-bound goods from third countries can be transported from Kolkata to Varanasi then to Birgunj and Bhairahawa via rail and road. Completion of the terminal building in Kalughat and Shaibgunj in Bihar will be crucial to opening the new transport channel, officials said.

Once the terminal in Kalughat near Patna comes into operation, Nepal can bring cargo up to Narayai River, while the terminal at Shaibgunj will allow for cargo movement through the Koshi-Ganga waterway.

Several alternatives are under consideration between Nepal and India on the modality of waterways, according to officials. The Indian side has suggested that Nepal can export and import goods using big vessels from Kolkata to Kalughat in Bihar, park the goods there and transport them to Nepal border on smaller ships. Alternatively, Nepal can export or import goods by using the 180km Kalughat-Raxual road.

The Indian side has also proposed transporting goods on big vessels through the Kolkata-Shaibgunj waterway and ferry them using small ships up to the Nepal border. Besides, Nepal can bring in goods by road using the 150km Shaibgunj-Manihari-Birgunj corridor. India has also proposed use of the cross-border railway under construction via various border points.

A multi-modal terminal that India is building in Haldiya, Kolkota, under the inland waterways project is slated to be completed in December next year.

Published: 22-09-2018 07:40

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