4-10 December 2015 #785

Over the hump

The fragile state of the highway to Tibet doesn’t offer much immediate hope in expanding Nepal-China trade
Dambar K Shrestha in RASUWA

PICS: DAMBAR K SHRESTHA

As Madhesi protesters backed by India continue to block some of Nepal’s southern border checkpoints, the Nepal government is trying to find an alternative source of fuel and other commodities from China.

However, with the Kodari Highway blocked by the earthquake, the government is pinning its hope on the Rasuwa border point. However, this one-lane road (pictured) needs to be upgraded and widened if it is to serve as a new lifeline.

Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) has already imported 1.3 million litres of fuel donated by China through this road. And negotiations are underway to finalise a deal on the commercial supply of fuel from across the Himalaya.

But even if that agreement is signed, importing essential commodities from China will not be easy given the poor condition of the only operational trade link between the two countries. The 153 km-long Kathmandu-Rasuwa Gadi highway is a narrow, treacherous and serpentine mountain road that follows the Bhote Kosi. It has some dangerous landslides along the way. Truckers find it difficult to pass through Ramche, Mul Kharka, Phul Kharka and many other sections. A couple of excavators can be seen, but none are in operation due to the fuel crisis. Repairing and maintaining the only road linking Nepal with China is tediously slow.

Rasuwa’s DSP Avadesh Bista says: “At some points, even a single truck cannot pass through.”

The Indian blockade amplified the voice for trade diversification, but the Department of Roads (DoR) has not shown any sense of urgency to repair the Rasuwa road. “At least the narrow sections must be widened and the damaged parts repaired,” says local businessman Kumar Karki. “Otherwise, it would be difficult to import goods from China.”

The Department of Roads (DoR) says the lack of diesel is delaying repair work, and although the NOC had given 2,000 litres of diesel to the DoR it was enough only to clear landslide debris. The DoR is now demanding an additional 10,000 litres of diesel to expedite repair work here.

Rasuwa MP Janardan Dhakal says: “This road could be our lifeline if the blockade drags on, so the government must give priority to it.”

Last week Finance Minister Bishnu Poudel landed in Rasuwa by helicopter and said the government would upgrade the road into a two-lane highway in two years. Locals of Rasuwa are cautiously hopeful

Read Also:

Calling a blockade a spade

Tea and biscuits, Anurag Acharya

Look South, Om Astha Rai

Full blown economic crisis

Lose-lose, Editorial

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