Minister for Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation Barsha Man Pun today said Nepal-India inland waterways connectivity had the potential for shaping the future of Nepal’s trade.
Stating that the present modes of transportation for trade and transit not only are costly, but also erode the competitiveness of Nepali exports, Pun said that inland waterways was the safest, environment-friendly and the most reliable form of transportation, besides being cost-effective to the country.
He said the convergence of Nepal’s rivers with the Ganga River, on which India is developing a national waterway between Varanasi and the seaport of Haldia, provided an opportunity for Nepal to build an inland access to the sea.
“The effort of India to develop national waterways has brought excitement and encouragement to Nepal to develop such projects,” said Pun at a ‘Seminar on Nepal Inland Waterways’ organised here.
He also said Nepal would like to extend waterways in three major rivers — Narayani, Koshi and Karnali, which collectively contribute up to 70 per cent of the total flow of the Gangas.
On the occasion, India’s Ambassador to Nepal Manjeev Singh Puri said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had taken the development of inland waterways of India as one of the priority projects.
Stating that the first of the inland terminals (ports) was going to be inaugurated in Varanasi along the River Ganga in November, Puri said Nepal would have the ability to get its cargo shipped to Varanasi and move to Nepal after necessary amendments to the Trade and Transit Protocol.
Puri said the Indian government was also looking at navigability to be able to get containerised traffic from ports in India to Nepal.
“It makes transportation much easier for importers. It allows us to bypass the choke points of road and rail links. And it allows you to have goods in your yard in the way that you wish to have them,” said Puri.
Puri said the Nepal-India joint scoping mission would focus on two areas — Koshi and Ganga.
As far as Koshi is concerned, Puri said although the water level in Koshi channels were not that high making it difficult for navigation at all times, there was possibility for Inland vessels to come right up to Hanuman Nagar for a substantial part of the year.
“The second set of things which the scoping mission will look at is what can be done vis-a-vis the Ganga River. Essentially, that could bring containerised traffic as close as possible to Bharatpur, Chitwan,” he said.
“So we believe we are up to something that has potential. It is a win-win condition for both the countries,” added Puri.
Published on The Himalayan Times