Steering committee meeting ends inconclusively

Kathmandu, February 22

The steering committee meeting on the construction of Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) held in New Delhi today concluded without finalising the date to operationalise ICP Birgunj.

Being constructed under the assistance of the Indian government, 90 per cent works of the ICP Birgunj have already been completed. And the Indian side is willing to hand over the ICP to Nepal as early as possible following the joint communiqué issued during the visit of former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to India, which mentioned about operationalising ICP Birgunj by mid-December last year.

Later, the consultant of the project had proposed the date of mid-February. But, Nepal side has sought all the facilities that were promised earlier before bringing it into operation.

Following the visit of former PM Deuba to India, the Nepal-India joint team had inspected the ICP Birgunj in mid-October last year. A link road from the ICP on the Indian side to ICP Birgunj and some necessary infrastructure like warehouse, parking lots and Electronic Data Interchange building within the ICP are yet to be developed. The consultant for the project, RITES India Ltd, had told the Nepali side that the remaining works could be completed even after the handover of ICP to Nepal or after operationalisation of ICP Birgunj.

The Nepal Intermodal Transport Development Board (NITDB) — custodian of ICP — however, has sought complete infrastructure from the contractor before operationalising ICP Birgunj, as per Laxman Bahadur Basnet, executive director of NITDB.

This is the eighth series of the project steering committee meeting, which was led by senior officials of Nepal and India. The meeting was co-chaired by Secretary at the Ministry of Urban Development, Deependra Nath Sharma from Nepal side and Secretary for Border Management, India, Braj Raj Sharma.

During the meeting, RITES India Ltd briefed the delegates about the progress achieved in the construction of the ICPs at Birgunj and Biratnagar so far. The Ministry of External Affairs of India has extended grant assistance for the construction of four ICPs, including Birgunj.

ICPs have been proposed at major check-points along the Nepal-India border namely, Bhairahawa, Biratnagar and Nepalgunj. Works at the Biratnagar ICP have also started.

Project consultant, RITES India Ltd, also updated the steering committee about the preparations for the construction of ICPs at Bhairahawa and Nepalgunj. Both sides reviewed the progress in preparations for operationalising the ICPs at Raxaul and Birgunj, and agreed to resolve the outstanding issues at the earliest, according to Basnet.

Along with Secretary Sharma, officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs, NITDB and Department of Customs also participated in the meeting.

Nepal and India signed a memorandum of understanding in 2005 for the construction of the ICPs at four cross-border points along Nepal-India border. In the first phase, construction of ICPs at Raxaul-Birgunj as well as Jogbani-Biratnagar was taken up. The ICPs will have state-of-the-art facilities, integrated customs and immigration services, among others, for smooth cross-border movement of goods and services as trade facilitation and also for passenger traffic.