Gopi Nath Mainali
National Planning Commission
What is the possibility of transforming Nepal into a land-linked country?
We do see this possibility. Laos is an example for us. It’s also a landlocked country like Nepal. They have built major highways connecting the country with Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. They are also linked to China through the Mekong River. Similarly, Nepal is ideally situated between India and China to work as a land-link. Therefore, Nepal too can become a land-linked or land-linking country.
We have multiple transit points with both India and China. Have we planned to connect these transit points?
Yes, we have planned to connect these transit points. The first means of such connectivity is road. We are going to construct 11 north-south roads to link our border in the north to that in south. Three of these road projects have been listed as projects of National Pride. They are: Kaligandaki corridor, Koshi corridor and Karnali corridor. Similarly, we are also going to build an east-west highway. The points where the east-west highway and the north-south roads will meet will be developed as cities. In this way, we have planned 10 big cities. These roads are going to contribute greatly to the national economy by connecting the country effectively with both our neighbours.
But the progress of the three road projects of national pride is not very satisfactory. Isn’t it?
Yes, you are right. Their progress is not satisfactory, especially that of the Karnali corridor. Those road projects where there is immediate benefit after completion have shown some progress. For example the Kaligandaki corridor; there is good progress in the construction of this corridor. Similarly, the progress made so far in the Koshi corridor could be termed satisfactory. But the situation of the Karnali corridor is poor. We have drawn the attention of the ministry concerned to expedite works of these corridors.
What is the major aim of the north-south highways?
The major aim is to connect the northern border with the southern border i.e. China and India. This will help the country to work as a transit between our two neighbours. The other aim is to create the network to provide services and create new cities in the country.
What about creating a rail link to connect our neighbours?
This is also a good possibility. But this is a distant possibility though there is talk about connecting Lhasa and Kathmandu through a rail link. Given Nepal’s topography, building a railway to connect India and China is going to be a huge project, requiring equally huge investment. So, I don’t see this possibility at least in the next one and a half decades. But in the long run, we will definitely need a rail link as well. The government thinks that the construction of the railway should move according to the public-private-partnership (PPP) model or the BOOT (build, own, operate and transfer) model. But the private sector has not shown much interest as the returns from this project would come in the long run. At present, the government sees three possible rail links – east-west rail track, Birgunj Kathmandu rail track, and Kathmandu-Pokhara rail track. But even to link Terai to Kathmandu, expressway is a much better option than a railway.
The recent landslide in the Sunkoshi rive which blocked the Kodari highway has shown that we need an alternative road link to China. Hasn’t it?
Yes you are right. We need an alternative road connection to China. The Rasuwagadhi-Syafrubesi – Kathmandu could be one such road.