Nepal to request China to expand Araniko Highway

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Nov 29, 2015-

The government is preparing to formally request China to expand the Dhulekhel-Tatopani section of the Araniko Highway.

Nepal’s main inland trade route with the northern neighbour has been heavily damaged by the April 25 earthquake and trade has not taken place through this route since the disaster.

Officials at Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport said they were preparing to a send a proposal in this regard to the Cabinet soon. The government plans to expand this two-lane road to four lanes. “Preparations are underway to formally request China for the road expansion,” said Bishnu Om Bade, joint secretary at the ministry. “Although we have been requesting the northern neighbour in different meetings, we are now preparing to make a formal request.”

According to ministry officials, the proposal will be forwarded to the Cabinet once Deputy Prime Minister and Physical Infrastructure Minister Bijaya Kumar Gachchadar completes his planned to trip to Tatopani and Kimathanka border points. A team led by Gachchhdar had visited Rasuwagadhi border point on Friday. The trade route was resumed after remaining closed for six months after the earthquake.

Nepal has been requesting the Chinese side to reopen the Tatopani border point at the earliest so that bilateral trade could be enhanced. The quake has damaged infrastructure on both sides of the border.

Another joint secretary at the ministry Rabindra Nath Shrestha said the Chinese assistance for the road expansion was being sought to the utilise Chinese annual aid to Nepal in a single big project.

A few months ago, China had announced to increase its in annual aid to Nepal to 800 million yuan (Rs13.4 billion). However, it is still not clear which Chinese aid would be used to for the road upgradation given China has also pledged a huge assistance for post-earthquake reconstruction, according to ministry officials.

The highway was built 45 years ago with Chinese assistance, due to which Nepal had to face the first Indian embargo in 1970.

Despite the current Indian embargo, Nepal has failed to utilise border points with China to import essential goods due to poor road condition on the Nepali side. With the government also planning to import fuel from China, upgrading the road has been essential, Bade said.

“As Shigatse—from where Nepal plans to import Chinese fuel—is nearer from Tatopani, and the Kathmandu-Tatopani route is also shorter than Kathmandu-Rasuwagadhi, upgrading the Tatopani route makes sense,” said Bade.

Published: 29-11-2015 09:27

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