Road to connect China and India in Eastern region nears completion

- MADHAV GHIMIRE, DIPENDRA SHAKYA, Biratnagar/ Shankhuwasabha

May 5, 2019-

The 362km-long Biratnagar-Khandbari-Kimathanka road section is nearing the finish line with only 14km of road left to build.

Of the total length, construction of the 200km Biratnagar-Khandbari section has been completed while of the 162km stretch of Khandbari-Kimathanka, 144km road has been constructed. Construction of nine bridges and 14 km of road works remain.

The road section will be the shortest route linking India, Nepal and China in the eastern part of the country.

Project Chief Gautam Kumar Shrestha said the project has already constructed a bunker in Chyamtang of Chepuwa to stock the explosives needed to open the rocky track in the hilly region. “Vehicles are now in operation on the 113 km road between Khandbari and Hunghung of Hatiya.”

Koshi Road Project is now widening the newly opened track of Hatiya-Chyamtang. The construction of a retaining wall and culvert from Simbung of Hatiya is being done at a higher pace.

While the gravelling of the road along Khandbari and Chichila Rural Municipality is in progress, the road section between Deurali of Chichila and Phyaksinda Dobhan of Makalu is being upgraded.

According to the project, it will soon blacktop the road connecting Loving Hill of Khandbari and Phyaksinda of Makalu. Nine bridges are under construction at the road segment of Phyaksinda-Barun. According to Shrestha, the project has divided the construction of Barun River-Kimathanka into four segments and contracted various construction companies to work on different road segments. The contract of the segments connecting Barun-Simbung, Simbung-Hatiya, Lingum-Chepuwa and Chepuwa- Hunghung have been awarded to Gajurmukhi Motidan Gitanjali Construction JV. The road section in Kimathanka-Chepuwa is contracted to Apex Kanchha Ram Construction.

The government in its budget announcement for 2018-19 also prioritised the construction work of the Kimathanka-Rani Highway. Speaking at a programme in Biratnagar last week, Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada had said that the cross-border connectivity project was delayed because of difficult terrain. According to him, the government has planned to setup customs point at Kimathanka to facilitate Nepal-China trade through the border.

As of now, the government has spent Rs2.11 billion for construction of the strategic road. This year, the government has disbursed Rs470 million for the purpose. Of the remaining segment, the 6km portion at Sankhebhir and 5km portion at Mahabhir is posing to be a tough challenge.

With the completion of majority of the construction work, local have started using small vehicles for transport. Local people of Shankhuwasabha said they used to traverse from their respective rural municipalities to district headquarters in Khandbari on foot for more than a day and they are now able to ride motorcycles along the newly opened track.

The region witnesses vehicular movement of tractors, small jeeps and motorcycles along the 113 km stretch even during winter. It has allowed locals to haul daily essentials in less time and cost.

“Before the track was opened, we were reliant on donkeys to haul goods in the region,” a local said, “The hauling charge was very high but now we can easily transport goods at lower cost.”

On average, more than two dozen small and large vehicles have been plying the Khandbari-Noom road section daily. But some stretches of the road are relatively narrower and the rural municipality now plans to gradually upgrade it, said the locals.

The construction of highway that connects Morang, Sunsari, Dhankuta, Tehrathum and Sankhuwasabha districts to the border of Tibet is expected also to boost Nepal’s trade with the northern neighbour. The highway following its construction will also be the shortest road network that will connect the major commercial hubs of India and China. Kimathanka also offers the traders with an easy access to two big cities of China — Lhasa and Sigatse, which is situated at around 300km from the Nepal border.

Pawan Sarada, president of Morang Merchant Association, said the traders have started ground work in collaboration with the local government authorities to begin trade through the new route soon as the construction work is concluded. According to him, Nepal can benefit through import of industrial raw materials at cheaper cost from China while increasing export of herbs and local products to China.

Kishor Kumar Pradhan, vice-president of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said opening just the track of the highway would not be sufficient to ferry the loaded trucks. Pradhan sought the need for upgrading the road connecting Dhankuta and Kimathanka to four lanes to ease movement of the containers importing goods from China.

Published: 05-05-2019 07:58

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