Construction in full swing at dry ports despite lockdownChobhar inland container depot is being built with a Rs1.70 billion loan from the World Bank.
Construction crews are busy at work at the building sites of two key dry ports in Kathmandu and Rasuwa, exempt from the lockdown that has immobilised the rest of the country.
“The construction of Chobhar dry port in Kathmandu and Rasuwa dry port near the Chinese border is moving ahead,” said Ashish Gajurel, executive director of the Nepal Intermodal Transport Development Board, the government agency responsible for the construction and operation of the inland container depots.
“We have been working aggressively to finish the work by the given deadline,” he said.
According to him, Chobhar dry port is in line to be completed as per the timetable. "The facility is slated to be finished by June 30, and 80 percent of the construction work has been completed so far," he said.
“It's a little difficult getting the required construction materials, but we and the contractor have been managing to keep the deliveries coming,” he added.
The inland port is being constructed by the government with a Rs1.70 billion loan from the World Bank, which is the estimated cost of the project. The construction contractor is a Nepal-China joint venture.
"Work started at the construction site of Rasuwa dry port with the return of Chinese crews a few weeks ago. They have been engaged in laying the foundation," Gajurel said.
The construction of the depot had to be stopped for a year after workers stayed away due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Around 10 percent of the work has been completed at Rasuwa dry port which is slated to be ready by May 2022.
The Rs2.2 billion dry port is being constructed as a gift by the Chinese government.
Officials see problems looming on the horizon, however. Factories producing building materials have closed down or slashed production due to lockdown restrictions and reduced sales, Gajurel said.
Work at the construction sites might stop in the coming days if this situation prolongs and the lockdown gets extended, he said.
“If the factories keep operating at reduced capacity, there could be a shortage of construction materials in the market. Moreover, workers cannot perform their duties confidently in a pandemic situation; and with the monsoon starting soon, construction work will come to a halt,” he said.
He thinks it will be difficult to complete the construction work on time. The time overruns will also increase costs, he says.
"The pandemic has started disrupting progress at the dry ports, but we have been managing to keep the work going somehow," Gajurel said. “We are not getting construction materials in the required quantities, and it is difficult to get them too,” he said.
Gajurel said that the other dry ports in the country are operating smoothly.
The Nepal Intermodal Transport Development Board is conducting an environmental impact assessment of Dodhara-Chandani dry port, and the work will not be hindered, he said.
The board has recently completed the master plan for the construction of the dry port which is estimated to cost Rs19 billion. Planned to be built with government funding, the inland container depot and integrated check post are expected to be completed by 2025.
The inland terminal will provide access to India’s largest seaport, Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Mumbai, and facilitate Nepal's foreign trade and lower costs, officials said. Dodhara-Chandani dry port will be the first business gateway to India from Nepal's far west.
A feasibility study of the proposed Korala dry port in Mustang has also been completed, and the board is now doing an environment impact assessment, Gajurel said.