Kathmandu, March 25
The government of India handed over the Integrated Check Post (ICP) Birgunj to the government of Nepal today, which will help in the smooth cross-border movement of goods and passenger traffic to/from Nepal from a single place.
Consul General of India to Nepal in Birgunj, BC Pradhan, handed over the infrastructure developed under the assistance of the Ministry of External Affairs, India, to Nepal Intermodal Transport Development Board (NITDB) — the government agency which has been assigned for the operation, maintenance and management of the ICP.
Construction of ICP Birgunj was started in April 2011 and it took seven years to complete the construction and bring it into operation. Laxman Bahadur Basnet, executive director of NITDB, said that NITDB is preparing for the trial operation of the ICP from April 1. “Trial operation will be started from April 1 and it will go into full-fledged operation from mid-April,” Basnet told The Himalayan Times. NITDB has already deployed its staffs to the ICP.
The government of India has handed over the administrative building, parking yard, quarantine house, warehouse and litigation shed, among other infrastructure. However, Basnet has said that the existing structures of the warehouse, litigation shed and parking yard are not sufficient as per the volume of current trade and need to be expanded in the near future. The NITDB has also issued a tender notice for the expansion of the aforesaid structures in the ICP.
The ICP will provide all the services like customs, immigration, quarantine, banks, warehouse, litigation shed and parking that are required for the clearance of goods and movement of people from one location itself.
Consultant of the project, RITES India, has made a commitment to complete remaining works like blacktopping the road and laying the optical fibre cable up to ICP Birgunj entry gate, among others by mid-April.
The meeting of the project steering committee held in February in Indian capital Delhi had discussed on handing over the ICP in the first week of March. The Indian side had accelerated the works of the project and was in a rush to hand over the project following the joint communiqué issued during former prime minister Sher Bahadu Deuba’s visit to India in August last year, which stated the operationalisation of ICP Birgunj by mid-December last year.
The private sector was eager for the early operationalisation of the ICP as it is expected to help in bringing down the cost and time of the country’s foreign trade. The ICP in the Indian side was completed more than one-and-a-half years back.
The Ministry of External Affairs of India has extended grant assistance for construction of four ICPs including in Birgunj. ICPs have been proposed at major checkpoints on the Nepal-India border crossings, namely Bhairahawa, Biratnagar and Nepalgunj. India and Nepal signed a memorandum of understanding in 2005 for the construction of the ICPs at the four cross-border points along the Nepal-India border. In the first phase, the construction of ICPs at Raxaul-Birgunj as well as Jogbani-Biratnagar was taken up.
A version of this article appears in print on March 26, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.