Work on second road to Tibet to begin soon

Kathmandu, May 27 :

Finance Minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat has said that the construction of Syabrubeshi-Rasuwagadhi road will start this year. The road is expected to boost trade with China.

“China has agreed to start the construction of 22-km long highway within the year,” said Dr Mahat, adding that construction work will start immediately after the summer season.

He was speaking at the sixth annual general meeting of Nepal Trans Himalaya Border Trade Association (NTHBTA) in Kathmandu today.

The trade volume between Nepal and China in recent years has increased significantly, although trade balance is largely in favour of the northern neighbour. This has resulted in traffic congestion on the Arniko Highway, the sole road link between Nepal and Tibet Autonomous Region of China. Considering the increased trade with Nepal, the Syabrubesi-Rasuwagadhi highway project was approved by China during the then Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji’s visit to Nepal in May, 2001. This highway will be the second link between Nepal and its northern neighbour.

“The road will not only ease the traffic along the Arniko Highway, but also boost bilateral trade, tourism and help attract Chinese investment to Nepal,” Dr Mahat said. He informed that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has agreed to provide loan assistance to construct a road connecting Syabrubeshi with Prithvi Highway in Dhading district. “The government will seal a deal with ADB soon,” he said.

The Syabrubeshi-Rasuwagadhi trade route was in existence since the Lichchhavi era until the construction of Arniko Highway in the late 1960s. It is the shortest route to the Tibet Autonomous region of China from the Kathmandu valley and most of the commercial transactions used to be carried out through this route before opening of the Arniko Highway.

Taking note of China’s recent decision on quota and duty-free access to Nepali products, he urged Nepali entrepreneurs to explore new areas and products of comparative advantage in order to exploit vast Chinese market. “Now we have to shift our focus from imports to exports, as China has given us quota and duty-free market access to over 1,550 items,” he said.

On the occasion, Sun Heping, Chinese ambassador to Nepal, emphasised China’s position on strengthening bilateral trade and economic relations. “China is open to cooperate with its neighbours on mutually beneficial areas including socio-economic development,” he added.

“In order to bridge the widening trade gap, both the governments need to be serious at expanding infrastructure, improving customs facilities and simplifying procedures,” said Chandi Raj Dhakal, president of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI).