Saarc looks to donors to build road, rail links

- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu

Nov 28, 2014-

The Saarc member states will be pitching for investments in ambitious rail, road and waterway projects proposed for the region by reaching out to the member states, Observers and other bilateral and multilateral donors.

A significant progress was made in the proposed Saarc Motor Vehicles and Railway Agreements during the 18th Saarc Summit that concluded in Kathmandu on Thursday, giving a much-needed impetus towards realising the projects aimed at connecting South Asia.

The Saarc countries have agreed to hold a meeting of their transport ministers within three months to finalise the agreements for approval. Soon after the nod, the Saarc Secretariat will initiate talks with the Observers and other financial partners for investment, said an official at the Secretariat.

Besides linking the region, the proposed projects would also link central and South Asia and beyond by all modes of connectivity.

Noting that many companies have expressed their interest to invest in hydropower projects after the signing of the Power Trade Agreement between Nepal and India, an official said there would be no shortfall of investors once the agreement has been finalised for Saarc regional connectivity projects.

The official added that China, the EU, and the US are particularly interested to make the investments.

“They have approached us several times in the past, enquiring about the projects. But we could not assure them anything since the agreements have not yet been finalised,” he said.

Senior officials at the Saarc Secretariat said that they would soon be leaving for Japan and South Korea, two Saarc observers, to discuss the projects and other possible areas of cooperation in the Saarc region.  

The secretariat, in association with the Asian Development Bank, has already conducted a comprehensive study to link the least integrated region in the world.

The study has proposed 10 regional road networks: South Asian Corridor ( SAC-1) linking Lahore (Pakistan)-New Delhi- Kolkota Petrapole/Benapole (India)-Dhaka-Agratala; SAC-2 linking Kathmandu-Birgunj/Raxual-Kolota-Haldia; SAC-3 linking Thimphu- Phuenstholing- Jaigon- Kolkota/Haldia; SAC-4 linking Kathmandu-Kakadbhitta-Phulbari-Banglabandh-Mongla/Chittagon; SAC-5 linking Sandrop Jongkhar( Bhutan)-Guwahati- Shillong- Sylhet- Dhaka- Kolkota; SAC-6 linking Agaratala-Akhaura-Chittagon; SAC-7 linking Thimphu-Phuenstholing- Jaigon- Burimari- Mongla/Chittagon; SAC-8  linking Kathmandu-Nepalganj-New Delhi-Lahore- Karachi; SAC-9 linking Maldha (India)-Shibganj-Jamuna bridge (Bangladesh); and SAC-10 linking  Kathmandu-Bhairahawa-New Delhi-Lucknow.

On rail connectivity, the member states have proposed building five rail networks. According to the proposal, the first corridor will begin from Lahore (Pakistan) to Delhi and Kolkota of India via Dhaka to Mahisahan to Imphal ( India). The second corridor will connect Karachi-Hyderabad- Khokarapar-Munabao-Barmer-Jodhpur of India. The third network will start from Birjung and end in Haldia, Kolkota. The fourth corridor will begin from Birgunj and will go straight to Raxual/Katihar of India, crossing the Rohanpur to connect cities like Chittagon with links to Jogbani and Agaratala, India. The fifth rail network will link the Colombo, Sri Lanka and Chennai, India.

According to the study, two regional inland waterway corridors will be developed between India and Bangladesh. Five regional maritime gateways have been proposed in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.

Similarly, Kathmandu of Nepal, Dhaka of Bangladesh, Paro of Bhutan, and Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Trivandrum, Banglore, Trichy, Cochin and Hyderabad of India have been identified as major air destinations. Karachi and Lahore of Pakistan, Male of the Maldives, and Colombo of Sri Lanka have been proposed the regional aviation gateways.

There is no problem at the regional level to push these projects, said an official at the Saarc Secretariat, claiming that the bottlenecks were within the states. “Once we agree on these projects, the infrastructure window of Saarc Development Fund will commence and our dream to set up South Asian Economic Union would materialse. We are waiting for the member states to provide the timeframe to execute the projects so that we can set a deadline to execute and implement the projects,” said the official.

connectivity plan

-    10 South Asian Corridors to link member states by motorway

-    Five rail networks

-    Two regional inland waterway corridors

-     Five regional maritime gateways

Published: 29-11-2014 09:35

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