Govt told to start project early

Govt told to start project early

Kathmandu-tarai fast-track road

POST REPORT Kathmandu Post


KATHMANDU, JUL 30 - The Parliamentary Development Committee has told the government to get on with the Kathmandu-Nijgadh Fast Track project by considering the national interest and making it result oriented and transparent. Thursday’s meeting of the panel saw diverse views from lawmakers about the project. Some of them expressed concern at the contract being offered to an Indian firm arguing that the project would be put on the back burner. They urged the government to allocate Rs20 billion annually to the project and complete it within five years. Other lawmakers stressed that such a national pride project should be developed at any cost. They said that the project should be implemented at the earliest with government or foreign capital.

“We are of the view that the project should be developed within the stipulated time, and that it should be of international standard,” said Rabindra Adhikari, chairman of the committee. Likewise, Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Bimalendra Nidhi told the lawmakers that the project was strategically important for Nepal and its construction would be started as soon as possible. He added that the expressway project was complementary to the proposed Second International Airport (SIA) in Nijgadh. A detailed feasibility study of the SIA has shown that the fast track should be completed at least six months before work is started on the airport. “These two projects can change the face of Nepal,” he said. Presently, it takes five hours to reach Nijgadh from Kathmandu. A study conduced by the Indian team has shown that the expressway will slash travel time to one hour.

Nidhi explained to the lawmakers that the government had cautiously dealt with a number of issues amid criticism that the fast track project was being offered to an Indian firm. “The project reflects the government’s commitment and strategy to attract foreign direct investment,” he said. He added that the government had twice called for global bids to build the expressway, but there were no takers. “An Indian company stepped forward during the third call for bids, and it matched our requirements,” Nidhi said. An Indian consortium consisting of Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS) Transportation Networks, IL&FS Engineering and Construction and Suryavir Infrastructure Construction has   been in talks with the government, and is likely to bag the 76-km express high-way project.  These are the same companies which have developed the detailed project report of the roadway project.

As per the report, the four-lane fast track will be built as per the primary Asian standard with room for expanding it to six lanes in the future. The road will have a minimum speed limit of 65 km per hour and maximum speed limit of 120 km per hour. The project will cost Rs112 billion including value added tax.  According to project head Satendra Shakya, the road will yield a profit of 23 percent annually if the SIA is built. “If not, there will be profit of 14.3 percent, which is still better than the average of 12 percent,” Shakya said, adding that the project was bankable even if the airport isn’t constructed. National Planning Commission Vice-Chairman Govinda Raj Pokhrel said that bringing foreign direct investment is a must for such projects, as it would result in the transfer of knowhow and expertise to Nepalis.   Regarding the toll that motorists would be charged, the government said that it was an acceptable amount.

According to officials, the developer   will charge Rs1,600 per car, Rs3,100 per bus, Rs4,600 per heavy truck and Rs800 per two-wheelers to use the motorway as per the agreement with the Indian consortium. However, some officials said that the fee would be second highest in the world after Japan. Physical Infrastructure and Transport Ministry Secretary Tulsi Prasad Sitaula said that the toll sounds too high, but it would be applied only after the project is completed. “After five years, it won’t seem so expensive.”

FinMin says more money needed

KATHMANDU: The Ministry of Finance has stated that the government should find other sources to finance the Kathmandu-Nijgadh Fast Track project as the $1 billion line of credit pledged by the Indian government would not be sufficient. Madhu Kumar Marashini, joint secretary at the ministry, said since a large portion of the pledged amount was a grant, it won’t be sufficient for the project anyway. According to Marashini, India has shown an interest in funding the project separately, hence the government is mulling negotiate with the southern neighbour for its fresh support. He said that the ministry was positive regarding the project development and would initiate talks with India as soon as possible. (PR)