Project selection for BRI funding goes on

- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu
Team headed by finance secretary preparing projects to be forwarded to the Chinese side

Sep 11, 2017-Following Beijing’s message to Kathmandu to propose projects under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the government has expedited discussion on various infrastructure projects for financing under the Chinese initiative.

A team headed by Finance Secretary Shanta Raj Subedi is preparing a matrix of projects to be forwarded to the Chinese side. The ministry will put forth its list once the Subedi-led team decides project details such as their cost and financing modalities, said Foreign Secretary Shankar Das Bairagi.

Based on the framework understanding reached with China in the last week of May and several high-level meetings that followed, China has asked Nepal to suggest some specific projects that could be developed under the BRI.

With China pressing Nepal to expedite project selection, the government has started short-listing some major infrastructure projects. Some of them will be selected in the near future before making a cost analysis.

Top officials said two large hydroelectricity projects, two cross-border transmission lines, upgradation of two roads connecting Nepal and China and the feasibility study of rail links with China are under consideration.

A Cabinet meeting on August 15 permitted the Energy Ministry to seek Chinese support on reservoir type projects and transmission lines under the BRI.

The ministry has selected Budhi Gandaki hydel project (1,200 megawatts) and West Seti (750MW) for financing. A request to make Budi Gandaki a part of BRI has already been placed with the Chinese side.

After Three Georges of China could not expedite the West Seti project for long, it will now be requested to be put under the BRI for expeditious implementation, said officials. Cross-border transmission lines via Kimathanka in Sankhuwasabha and Rasuwagadhi are also being proposed to be treated as BRI projects.

Besides, two roads will be upgraded and brought under the area of BRI, said officials. Upgradation of the Kodari Highway that was damaged in the Gorkha Earthquake of 2015 has already received a BRI fund of Rs16 billion.

Another road project up to Kerung will also be upgraded with a BRI fund. Currently, the Nepal Army is widening the Katmandu-Galchhi-Trishuli-Myalung-Syaphru-Rasuwagadhi (152 km) road.

The government will request Beijing to conduct feasibility study for two rail links between the two countries. The proposed railways will link Kerung-Kathmandu and Kerung-Kurintar-Pokhara-Lumbini. Chinese firms have already conducted pre-feasibility studies on these projects but Nepal was not prepared to request China to prepare their detailed project reports.

Preliminary assessments show that construction of the railway lines will cost $4 billion. It is expected that the Chinese rail will reach Kerung on the border with Nepal by 2020. Beijing has already designated Kerung as an international transit point.

During the 11th meeting of the Joint Consultation Mechanism between the foreign ministries of Nepal and China in June, the Chinese side is learnt to have called for projects on cross-border connectivity, infrastructure development, and diversification of trade and tourism that can be undertaken under the BRI.

The government had formed three panels to implement the BRI framework deal by working on project selection, technical assessment and coordination with Beijing.

Published: 11-09-2017 06:19

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