Coronavirus delays construction of integrated check post in NepalgunjThe Rs2.35 billion project, being built with Indian financial aid, has made only 12 percent progress in the last 10 months.
The Covid-19 pandemic has put the brakes on the construction of Nepal’s third integrated check post at Jayeshpur, Nepalgunj on the border with India.
The Rs2.35 billion project, being built with financial support from the Indian government, has a completion period of two years. But there has been only 12 percent progress in the last 10 months.
When ready, the check post in Nepalgunj will be the third such facility in the country after Birgunj and Biratnagar. These check posts here launched in April 2018 and January 2020 respectively.
Nepal and India had signed an agreement in 2005 for the construction of integrated check posts in Birgunj, Biratnagar, Bhairahawa and Nepalgunj on the Nepal side of the border; and twin facilities in Raxaul, Jogbani, Sunauli and Rupaidiha respectively on the Indian side to facilitate trade and transit between the two countries.
As per the accord, the Indian government will bear the entire construction cost while Nepal will provide the land required for the check posts. The facility allows customs and immigration clearance paperwork to be processed under a single roof to provide hassle-free service to traders.
In Bhairahawa, the government has acquired 52 bighas of land at the construction site of the proposed facility.
The integrated check post in Nepalgunj will have export and import cargo handling facilities. It will offer warehousing including refrigerated cargo facilities; medical, plant and animal quarantine areas; amenities for drivers and passengers; CCTV and other security systems; 24/7 power backup and wastewater treatment system.
The facility aims to help save time, reduce inconvenience to visitors, and lower overall transaction costs in cross-border trade and commerce.
In the last fiscal year 2020-21 ended mid-July, Nepal’s total trade amounted to Rs1.68 trillion with imports of Rs1.53 trillion and exports of Rs141 billion, according to the Department of Customs statistics.
Of the total trade, the commerce that passed through Nepalgunj Customs was valued at Rs68.94 billion.
Engineer Hom Nath Bhusal at the Urban and Building Division Office, Nepalgunj has been monitoring the project’s construction work. "The integrated check post has been accorded top priority; but due to the pandemic, it may not meet the completion deadline."
The Nepal section of the facility will occupy 61.5 hectares and the construction was assigned to a Pune-based company under the supervision of state-run RITES International. A portion on the Indian side is being built at Rupaidiha by the Lands Ports Authority of India, and work started in May 2020.
“The overall progress of the project has reached 12 percent in almost a year,” said Bhusal.
The project has been building the foundation work. “Once the foundation is completed, the project’s work will be intensified,” Bhusal said.
"As the construction of the project is being done with Indian investment, Nepali authorities cannot exert pressure on them. Both the investment and the contractor are from India. But we have requested the Indian side to complete the construction work within the stipulated time."
Bhusal said that the project could still achieve its target. The government has exempted customs duty on goods and vehicles brought from India for the construction of the check post.
The project sites in India and Nepal will be connected by a 2.2-km long and 60-metre wide highway to facilitate Nepal-India vehicle movement.
The integrated check post project was mooted one and a half decades ago. It stalled due to lack of interest from the Indian side. According to project officials, railway service will be extended to the integrated check post.
Due to lack of modern customs facilities, the general public and traders have been facing problems as they are stopped at multiple places for security checks.
The check post, which is closer to the Indian capital of New Delhi than other border points in Nepal, will make export and import easier besides reducing hassles and time, project officials said.
India is Nepal's largest trading partner, accounting for 64 percent of Nepal's total foreign trade. In the last fiscal year, India accounted for Rs1.07 trillion out of Nepal's total trade value of Rs1.68 trillion.