December 10, 2013
KATHMANDU, DEC 10 -The government is upgrading four important trade routes to six-lane to facilitate bilateral trade with India and China.Out the four routes, upgradation work has already started on Butwal-Belhiya and Rani-Itahari routes, while the work on Surya Binayak-Dhulikhel and Birjung-Pathalaiya sections is yet to begin.
Based on the importance of the routes, the Department of Roads (DoR) had implemented “Trade Route Improvement Project” to upgrade and widen the four selected sections of trade routes to six lanes three years ago.
The four routes play a vital role in the bilateral trade with the neighbouring countries.
Narrow roads , traffic congestions and lack of parking facility have long remained as major problems on these routes, according to traders.
“The widening of the road sections is expected to help make timely delivery of goods allowing easy movement of large trucks and containers,” said Shankar Prasad Pandey, chairman of Trade Committee of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI).
He said despite increased traffic, the road infrastructure remained the same for years hindering cross-borders trade.
According to the Doing Business Index 2013 released last month by the World Bank, Nepal has not made any reforms when it comes to cross-border trade. The country slipped to 177th position in the trading across borders indicator in DBI 2013 from 173 earlier. Exporting a standard container requires 11 documents, takes 42 days and costs $2,295 from Nepal, according to the report.
Despite the need for an urgent upgradation, the department has not been able to carry out construction on all four sections at once due to budget constraints.
With the government failing to allocate adequate resources, the department is considering upgrade the 15.4 km Suryabinayak-Dhulikhel section of the Araniko Highway with soft loan from the Japan government. Similarly, a study is being carried out for the improvement of Birgunj-Pathlaiya (28 km) section under the build-own-operate and transfer (BOOT) modality.
“We are studying the feasibility for upgrading the road from Raxual to Pathlaiya under the BOOT system,” said Gopal Prasad Sigdel, chief of the Asset Management, Contract Management and Quality Control Project of the department, which oversees the Trade Route Improvement Project.
He said Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA) has been holding a study, expressing interest in providing soft loans to Nepal for the Suryabinayak-Dhulikhel section.
Department officials said Japan as expressed interest in providing the loan at 0.1 percent interest with a 30-year repayment period and 10-year grace period. The Tinkune-Suryabinayak section was also upgraded to six-lane under the Japanese grant assistance.
The Suryabinayak-Dhukhil section is estimated to require around Rs 3 billion, Birgunj-Pathalaiya Rs 5 billion, Butwal-Bhairahawa Rs 2.6 billion and Rani-Itahari Rs 4 billion. The government has planned to take the Rani-Itahari road to Dharan. The officials said the work is expected to complete within the next five-seven years.
The government this fiscal year provided Rs 940 million to the project (all four routes).
Currently, the department is working on a 5-km stretch of the Butwal-Belhiya (24.04 km) route and a 3-km stretch of the Rani-Itahari route.
Sigdel said that they would hire contractors for an additional 6-km stretch of the Butwal-Belhiya section and 5-km stretch of the Rani-Itahari section this year.
According to the department, the contractors will widen the road to six-lane (including a service lane) and also improve junctions by constructing bus stops, installing traffic and road safety measures, including road markings, signs and bridges.
Meanwhile, the government is also improving a 33-km section of the Narayanghat-Mugling road to the Asian Highway standard under a separate project named “Nepal-India Regional Trade and Transport Project”.