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Thread: #Nepal-#China railway plans hit a dead end - The proposed rail link between Nepal and China will be challenging to build and cost billions of dollars asiatimes.com/2019/07/articl…
The ambitious Nepal-China rail link, which is expected to break the tiny Himalayan nation’s sole dependence on India for trade and transit, is looking financially unfeasible as disagreements crop up between principal stakeholders.
There is no consensus among political actors about how this project, which is part of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, should be funded. Moreover, the railway would be challenging to build. The mountainous terrain poses a major challenge.
The Chinese side has been saying that the project needs further study and depends on new technological advances, as the proposed route runs through the earthquake-prone Himalayan range.
All in all, there has been more “diplomatic propaganda” than actual progress on the ground, in terms of expediting work for the railway, said foreign affairs and geopolitical expert Geja Sharma Wagle. “There is high symbolism, but less substance.”
During the fourth Nepal-China Railway Cooperation Committee meeting held in Beijing in the third week of June, Chinese officials had conveyed to the Nepali side that they would have to work out a few things before they start to prepare a detailed project report.
The Chinese Railway Administration conducted a pre-feasibility study of the project last year. That report indicated it would be a challenging engineering undertaking owing to various concerns – seismic activity, topography, altitude, geology and engineering.
In a press conference held in May this year, the Chinese Ambassador to Nepal, Hou Yanqi, said the construction of a railway through the most inhospitable terrain at the highest altitude requires further scientific and feasibility studies and innovation.
The country’s two major political parties – the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) and the main opposition party, Nepali Congress (NC) – lack consensus on how to finance the railroad.
While the main opposition party, NC, has maintained that the railroad should be developed only if China builds it under a grant, NCP appears in favor of expediting the project even if that requires taking a loan. China told Nepal government its unwillingness to give a grant.
As 98.5% of the railway is likely to comprise high bridges and tunnels, according to the pre-feasibility study conducted last year, it is estimated that the railway project would cost a minimum of 257 billion Nepali rupees (approximately US$2.3 billion).
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