SAARC transport network needs to be expanded

Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, June 21:

Senior experts of SAARC concerned with regional cooperation and regional multimodal transport connectivity have underscored the need to develop transport connectivity in the whole South Asian region to expand trade and economic activities. With a view to carry out a study on ‘SAARC Regional Multimodal Transport’ in South Asia, SAARC secretariat in cooperation with Asian Development Bank, started a two-day long inception workshop in the capital today. Speaking at the inauguration seminar, Masaaki Nagata, chief, Regional Cooperation Unit, Asian Development Bank (ADB) said that the programme is being held at a time when the environment for regional cooperation has improved in South Asia. As per the Memorandum of Understanding signed between ADB and SAARC secretariat, ADB approved a regional technical assistance (RETA) programme on promoting South Asia regional cooperation in September 2004 to implement SAARC Regional Multimodal Transport Study (SRMTS), one of the components of RETA.

Major objectives of the study are to analyse current constraints, challenges and potential benefits of regional transport connectivity through different transport modes, prepare a road map for promoting regional cooperation and develop a matrix of possible assistance in the transport sector and identify and conceptualise regional projects in the transport sector. At the same function, Sultan Hafeez Rahman, country director, Nepal resident mission, ADB informed about the bank’s cooperation in regional cooperation in transport and other areas for effective development. SAARC nations can significantly enhance their development prospects and strengthen their poverty reduction efforts with ADB’s assistance, Rahman suggested. As per the organisers of the workshop, the workshop is aimed at finalising the scope and terms of reference (ToR) of each consultant to produce better quality report of SRMTS as it covers several transport modes and countries. ADB says that effective connectivity and transport network is the key for the development and cooperation of other sectors such as trade, energy and tourism in South Asia.

Participating countries in the two day-long seminar include Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Over 50 experts from SAARC countries are participating in the seminar. Presenting a paper on terms of reference for the same study, Anthony Bayley, an ADB consultant said that the objectives should be to assess the extent and adequacy of existing regional transport connectivity, estimate the potential demand both in trade and inter-regional traffic along major corridors and identify adequacy of infrastructure facilities for future traffic and facilities. The areas of focus at the programme are on road, rail, ports, shipping, land ports, etc. Some of the suggestions, as per ToR report refer to,

‘Restriction to intra-regional traffic only, except in respective of gateway infrastructure (ports and airports), consider pre-selection of corridors; corridors should be defined between transport modes that relate to high density of cross border traffic.’