Planned construction of Chobhar dry port in limbo

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Oct 24, 2018-

The planned construction of an inland clearance depot (ICD) at Chobhar in the southwestern part of the Kathmandu Valley has gone into a limbo following protests by locals.  Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli was scheduled to lay the foundation stone for the dry port on August 8, but the event was postponed at the last hour. According to officials of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, they cancelled the inauguration due to pressure from influential local people.

The Nepal Intermodal Transport Development Board (NITDB) under the ministry is in charge of the construction project. The World Bank has agreed to provide a soft loan of $22 million to build the ICD.

The government has acquired 1,054 ropanis of land originally belonging to the now defunct Himal Cement Factory. Out of the total area, 228 ropanis have been allocated for the construction of the dry port. The remaining 826 ropanis have been set aside for a proposed international exhibition centre.

The NITDB has awarded the construction contract to an international bidder Aashish joint venture and local bidder Lumbini-Koshi and Neupane joint venture. The construction work is expected to be completed by January 2020. According to an NITDB source, the master plan and design for the dry port have already been prepared.

“Despite the progress made by the board, the ministry has been reluctant to give pace to the construction project,” the source said. “The ministry cancelled the inauguration due to pressure from locals, and it has no plans to start work any time soon.” After the government moved to start the construction work, several residents launched a protest against the plan to build the dry port at the location.

As per the NITDB source, the World Bank has also agreed to fund the construction of the proposed exhibition centre. The board has signed an agreement with the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) to run the exhibition centre under a public-private partnership model. The FNCCI was supposed to undertake the construction, operation and management of the exhibition centre, as per the source. The ministry denied reports that work had stopped due to pressure from locals, and said that it was carrying out preparatory work for the construction of the dry port. Ministry spokesperson Rabi Shankar Sainju said they were working on clearing the project site. “There was some obstruction to the proposed dry port from locals, but it has been sorted out,” Sainju said.

There were 285 people living at the site when the government acquired it to establish the cement factory more than four decades ago. The cement factory was built in 1974 as a gift from the German government. After the plant was closed in 2002 due to mismanagement and environmental concerns, the government decided to build an ICD and international standard exhibition centre there.

Published: 24-10-2018 09:14

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