Friday, 24th October 2014

Businessmen start digging own diversion road at Jure to resume China trade


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Businessmen, who depend on the Araniko Highway for their supplies to and from China, have started opening up their own alternate route at Jure in Sindhupalchowk.

They say the government has not been proactive about providing a diversion that could allow heavily-laden container trucks pass through, so the businessmen have taken it upon themselves to construct one strong enough.

Nepal's largest trade link with China -- the Araniko Highway which links Kathmandu with Khasa (Zhangmu in Chinese) -- was severed when landslide on August 2 at Jure in Sindhupalchowk swept away about 2.5 km of the highway.

Khasa is the main point of entry in the Nepal-China border for most of Nepal's imports from a multitude of manufacturing centres in Nepal's giant neighbour in the north.
 
Due to the damage in the Highway, goods worth billions of rupees are stranded, according to the exporters and importers.

With the pre-Dashain-Tihar shopping season fast approaching, there is a new sense of urgency to get the goods to various retail markets.

The group has brought in four bulldozers to clear a path around the area where the highway used to run through.

The cost of clearing the debris from the landslide and construction of the diversion will be borne by the business community themselves, they say.

Bishnu Bahadur Khatri, the coordinator of the Road Construction Working Committee for the diversion, says the alternate route that the government is working on will take at least three to four month to complete.

"Waiting for that road will mean facing losses of billions in investment and it will not be able to handle container trucks anyway," says Khatri, who is also the Senior Vice-president of Nepal Trans Himalayan Border Commerce Association.

The group started clearing the path from Kalleri at Jure at around mid day on Sunday. As of Tuesday evening, they've opened up a track of about a kilometre and another 1.5 kilometre remains to be cleared. The track will then be gravelled and reinforced if needed to make it strong enough to bear heavy loads and traffic. The group expects the route to be operational within 10 to 15 days.

“Once ready, the container trucks will use the route only during daytime under the supervision and support of the administration. The route will be closed for all traffic during night time.”

According to Kamal Kumar Shrestha, the president of Sindhupalchowk Branch of the Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), about 400 to 500 loaded containers are waiting on either side of the border while another 400 to 500 remain to be loaded with goods that have already been paid for.

If the goods don't get across to their various destinations before the peak shopping season starts, not only will the business sector lose billions, prices too will skyrocket, he says.

The government five days ago assigned Nepal Army to build an alternative route that will run on the other side of the Sunkoshi River and join the Highway. Construction on about 500 meters of the track has been done, they say.

In previous years, revenue collection at the border during pre-Dashain-Tihar festive season was around Rs 25 to 30 million daily and Rs 700 million in total, Tatopani Customs Office head Mimansha Adhikari says.

The Office collected around Rs 6 billion in revenue in the previous fiscal year.