‘Narayani river basin best option for Nepal-India inland waterway’

Kathmandu, July 16

High-level government officials of Nepal and India have agreed that Narayani river basin is the best option for operating an inland waterway within the country as well as cross-border service with India.

“We held preliminary discussions on river basin waterway transportation from commercial and non-commercial perspectives,” said Madhav Belbase, joint secretary of the Water and Energy Commission Secretariat (WAECS), informing about the outcome of the two-day meeting that concluded here today.

According to Belbase, who had led the Nepali delegation during the meeting, both the nations have agreed to conduct preliminary works for operating waterway transportation in Nararyani (NW-37) River by 2019.

The officials also discussed possibility of operating the service in Koshi River basin (NW-58), but it was put on hold for the moment due to obstruction by a bridge on the Indian side.

The junction of cross-border waterway for the Narayani river basin would be Valmiki Nagar of Bihar state in India and Triveni Ghat of Nawalparasi in Nepal.

As per Belbase, Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) has already started the work related to water transportation from the Indian side, with an aim to reach Triveni Ghat by the end of 2019.

In the concluding session of the meeting today, both the nations agreed to formulate an inter-governmental body to conduct necessary studies and make recommendations on operation modality of inland and cross-border water transportation services. The two sides also agreed to set up a Technical Scoping Mission (TSM) to study the under-construction Kolkata-Haldia-Varanasi waterway division of Ganga River (NW-1) project.

The TSM members from both countries will visit NW-1 project in September to gather information that would be relatable to Narayani River basin and cross-border waterway transportation.

According to Belbase, the waterway project from NW-1 to NW-37 would be more commercially viable than to NW-58. “The Indian side also pointed out that the commercial viability of the project would depend on whether or not ships with 300-metric-tonne capacity can be operated on the route,” he said, adding that in present condition, ships with 100-metric-tonne capacity can be operated on the route.

During the state visit to India from April 6 to 8, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi had released a joint statement that mentioned about formulating and mutually agreeing upon the requisite procedures and modalities for including inland waterways as an additional means of transport in the Protocol to the Treaty of Transit between Nepal and India.

Pravir Pandey, vice-chairman at IWAI, had led the Indian team for the meeting.