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Nepal-China railway link ‘difficult but possible’, to reach border by 2022

Chinese envoy Yu Hong said her country wants to expand economic, social and cultural connections with Nepal.

world Updated: Nov 19, 2017 07:31 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Kathmandu
Chinese envoy Yu Hong,Nepal,rail link
Ambassador Yu Hong at a briefing of the 19th CPC National Congress at the Chinese Embassy in Nepal on November 17.(via np.china-embassy.org)

China is conducting a feasibility study for building a railway link to Nepal at an estimated cost of more than $4 billion, with the line expected to reach the border by 2022, Chinese envoy Yu Hong has said.

The move comes against the backdrop of reports that Beijing is pressuring Kathmandu to take up more big ticket projects under the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. Nepal signed up for President Xi Jinping’s flagship connectivity project in May.

“We have already started the feasibility study for cross-border rail connectivity on the Kerung-Kathmandu-Pokhara-Lumbini route that is expected to cost over $4 billion. The Chinese railway is expected to reach the Nepal border by 2022,” Yu said during an interaction with the media here on Friday.

Yu described cross-border connectivity to Nepal as “difficult but possible” and said her country wants to expand economic, social and cultural connections. “For that China is committed to connect with rail and roadways.”

The envoy’s remarks came close on the heels of Nepal scrapping an agreement with a Chinese state-owned company for a 1,200-MW hydropower project.

China, Yu said, is interested in Nepal’s reconstruction, energy development, tourism and trade under the framework of the BRI.

The feasibility study is being conducted because of the difficult terrain in the border area, including mountains and rocky stretches in the region where the Chinese rail and road links are expected to enter Nepal, Yu said.

“We can only say whether to expand the railway on the Nepali side after conducting the feasibility study. It is complex due to the difficult geographical terrain,” she said.

China recently sent a technical team to Nepal to look into the possibility of expanding the cross-border rail link. Several options are also being considered by China for road connectivity with Nepal. Chinese and Nepalese technicians have concluded that connectivity will not be easy as dozens of tunnels and bridges will have to be built in hilly terrain.

The great earthquake of 2015 damaged the only road connection between the two sides, Araniko Highway, which was shut down. Nepal has repeatedly requested China to reopen the 115-km road that links Kathmandu to Tatopani on the border with Tibet but the Chinese side has been reluctant to do so because of the difficult terrain affects maintenance and security of the highway.

First Published: Nov 18, 2017 20:28 IST