New infra transforms Rasuwagadhi into trade hub

- KRISHNA THAPA, Rasuwagadhi (Rasuwa)
New infra transforms Rasuwagadhi into trade hub

Apr 16, 2015-Rasuwagadhi is slowly emerging as one of the key border points for economic engagement with China with the necessary infrastructure being built on both sides of the border to facilitate trade.

Besides an increase in trade through the border point, there has been a rise in the number of Chinese tourists arriving over this route. Tatopani in Sindhupalchok is the main trade route between Nepal and China, but Rasuwagadhi is likely to emerge as an alternative route for trade with China because of the infrastructure being built on both sides of border and the possibility of the border point being connected with Chinese railways.

The importance of the Rasuwagadhi customs point as an alternative gateway was felt mainly when the Araniko Highway was cut off due to landslides and flooding of the Sunkoshi River on August 2, 2014. Following the disaster, a large number of containers filled with imported goods were stranded on the Araniko Highway, bringing the trade with China almost to a standstill. At that time, the Chinese government was constructing a 22-km road connecting Kyirong and Khambatar which lies across the border from Rasuwagadhi. Following the obstruction on the Araniko Highway, the Commerce Ministry requested the Chinese government on behalf of Nepali traders that goods be allowed to be imported through this customs point.

Trade with China has started to expand since the Chinese government allowed trade to be conducted through the route. A large number of containers holding major import items like fruits, apparels, toys, blankets, thermoses and electronic products are being shipped to Nepal while wheat flour, molasses, chilli, beaten rice, brooms, noodles and packed juice, among other products, are going in the other direction. As a result, the customs office here has been able to increase its revenue collection to Rs18.7 million against the target of Rs3.25 million.

After the two governments officially brought the border point into operation on December 1, 2014, China has been allowing trade and issuing visas and a one-day entry passes through the border point. The Chinese authorities have been constructing the necessary infrastructure in the area besides operating a police administration, immigration and quarantine facilities here.

Likewise, Nepal has opened an immigration office at the customs point. The office has been issuing visas on arrival to Chinese visitors as well as entry passes to Nepalis wishing to travel across the border.

“The office has simplified the procedures for the mobility of the citizens of both the countries,” said Surendra Pradhan, chief of the office. According to Pradhan, the office has also been issuing visas on arrival to visitors from third countries entering Nepal through China.

Despite the increase in mobility through Rasuwagadhi, the infrastructure on the Nepal side is very poor. The office building and warehouse of the customs office are in a bad condition. Similarly, the area lacks a border police post, dry port and advanced customs check point. The quarantine office and the customs administration have been operating from rented premises.

Shambhu Bahadur Khadka, chief of the Rasuwa Customs Office, said they were facing problems related to warehouses and container parking due to the little space in the area. According to him, the construction of the customs office has recently been handed over to the concerned authorities.

Meanwhile, China has agreed to construct a dry port at Timure in Rasuwa. Two countries signed an agreement on the deal a few days ago. According to Khadka, the government has already acquired the land needed to construct the customs office and dry port. “The government will be allocating the required funding for the purpose through the next budget.”

The Chinese government has reportedly rushed the construction of infrastructure in Kyirong which is situated at an altitude of 2,700 metres. Kyirong is connected to Shigatse, one of the main trading hubs of China, located 790 km away. Mukunda Paudel, secretary of the Nepal-China-Kyirong Trade Association, said traders conducting trade over the route might face seasonal obstruction due to heavy snowfall.

In the past, the government used to operate a small customs office at Rasuwagadhi to regulate the trade that has been going on from ancient times. Local products of the Kathmandu valley, Nuwakot and Rasuwa used to be exported to Kyirong and Jongkha over this traditional caravan route. Similarly, importers would bring salt, wool, gold and quadrupeds through this border point to Nepal.

Trade through this route was boosted after China constructed a 16-km road connecting Syaphrubesi and Rasuwagadhi. Currently, the Nepal Army has been constructing road between Sanobharkhu and Hakubesi. The construction of a road connecting Rasuwa and Birgunj will shorten the trade route between the Indian and Chinese borders.

Meanwhile, the Rasuwagadhi Customs Office collected revenues amounting to Rs258.5 million in the first eight months of the current fiscal year, well above its target of Rs80.4 million. Customs Chief Khadka said the revenue collection was affected only during the winter due to heavy snowfall and during the main festive seasons.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government has reportedly offered to renovate the roads on the Nepal side of the border besides constructing the Kyirong-Khambatar highway in Tibet. The plan includes improving the Rasuwagadhi-Betrawati, Syaphru-Bharkhu-Mulkharka and Ramche Pahiro-Kalikasthan-Betrawati roads.

Published: 17-04-2015 09:42

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