Korala port process gathers momentum

- SANJEEV GIRI, Kathmandu

Jul 23, 2017-In line with the government’s decision to enhance bilateral trade with China, development of a dry port at Korala in Manang district has been expedited. The government has completed land acquisition, which is considered one of the most difficult tasks in commencing an infrastructure project.

A preliminary survey for the port is scheduled to be over within the current fiscal year. The two countries share a 1,236 kilometre border, along the mountain range that separates the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) of China from Nepal.

Establishment of the port in Korala, according to officials, carries strategic importance as it lies at the country’s centre and can be developed as a big facility. Besides, the process of developing infrastructure in the region seems to be easier than at other major border points with China.

Olangchungola in Taplejung, Kimathanka in Sankhuwasabha, Lamabagar in Dolakha, Tatopani in Sindhupalchok, Keyrung in Rasuwa, Larke in Gorkha, Yari in Humla and Mugu are the other major points connecting Nepal with the northern neighbour. Of them, Korala appears to be the best location for developing a port after Keyrung and Tatopani. A port in Keyrung is currently under construction 

while the one at Tatopani, severely impacted by the Gorkha Earthquake in 2015, is being protected from possible erosion.

The western regional centre and major tourist destination of Pokhara is 273 kilometres from Korala while the Kaligandaki corridor will connect the border point with Sunauli in the Tarai.

On the Chinese side, the nearest market at Dhunga Basin is 75km from Korala, which is 400km away from Mansarovar and 700km from Shigatse, China. Korala will also have connectivity with the Chinese railway after the Lhasa-Shigatse line is extended down to the Nepal border by 2022. Increased activity at the border point will also brighten the prospects of tourism between Pokhara and Mansarovar. “Development of infrastructure on the Chinese side is impressive, which will help us make the best use of it once the infrastructure is ready,” said Laxman Bahadur Basnet, executive director of Nepal Intermodal Transport Development Board (NITDB). “We have acquired 110 ropanis of land and there is the possibility of getting additional land if required.” According to Basnet, studies carried out by government agencies show that there is political consensus at the centre as well as the local level for fast-tracking the port construction.

After completing a preliminary study, the NITDB will conduct a detailed design survey to study the cost, technical aspects and economic viability in detail. The process will be followed by an agreement between the commerce ministries of Nepal and China. According to Basnet, the two countries agreed in 2014 to develop Korala as a major transit point. The state visit to China by former prime minister KP Sharma Oli had furthered the commitment.

Though Korala is touted as a significant link between the two neighbours given the relative ease for infrastructure development, it is not without problems. Situated in a mountainous terrain, the proposed construction site stands at an altitude of 4,660 metres above sea level. Strong winds could potentially hamper truck hauling capacity there, for instance.

The port construction area is located at Nechung, which is some 12km from the international border. According to an NITDB official, the site is close to the Nepal Army and Armed Police Force barracks. Korala border, at present, opens twice a year for trade.

The NITDB says it has received adequate budget from the Finance Ministry for the preliminary study.

(With inputs from Mustang correspondent Binod Tripathi)    

Published: 23-07-2017 07:06

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