India may allow Nepali trucks passage to B’desh

DHAKA: India is considering granting passage to Nepali trucks going from Nepal to Bangladesh, media reports said.

The possibility of a trilateral arrangement was considered when commerce ministers of the three nations met at the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) ministerial council meeting in Kathmandu on Wednesday, United News of Bangladesh (UNB) news agency reported citing an official release.

The discussion took place between Bangladesh Commerce Minister Faruk Khan and his Indian counterpart Anand Sharma.

Sharma told his Bangladeshi counterpart Col (retd) Faruk Khan that India was developing land customs infrastructure. Both the ministers emphasised the importance of enhancing bilateral trade.

Khan requested Sharma to withdraw the four per cent special additional duty levied on items that enjoy duty-free access under SAFTA provisions. The Indian minister agreed to consider it, The Daily Star newspaper reported today.

Meanwhile, India’s Tata Power Co said that it has signed a joint venture agreement with Norwegian hydropower firm SN Power to jointly develop hydropower projects in India and Nepal.

The joint venture aims to have 2,000 megawatts under construction or in operation by 2015 and a total of 4,000 MW by 2020, Tata Power said in a statement.

SN Power was established in 2002 and is 60 per cent owned by Statkraft; the rest is held by investment fund Norfund.

Tata Power and SN Power have already started pursuing potential project opportunities based on the vast reserves of renewable energy in the Himalayas.

The power producers did not share any financial details of the joint venture. However, Tata Power’s Executive Director S Ramakrishnan said the investments could be in the range of Rs 50-80 million per megawatt.

The joint venture plans to raise funds from international lenders, SN Power Chief Executive Officer Oistein Andresen told a news conference.

Ramakrishnan said although most of the fund raising would be through loan, they could also sell equity stakes in the projects to lenders like International Finance Corp, the investment arm of World Bank.

Tata Power has an installed generation capacity of 2,900 MW.

Ramakrishnan said Tata Power was looking to source 4-6 million metric tonnes of coal for its new power projects and is scouting for acquisitions in Indonesia, South Africa and Australia.