Nepal awaits Korala border reopening as China readies infrastructure on its sideOfficials say they expect Chinese support for upgrading facilities on the Nepali side.
Nepal and China welcomed the successful opening of the Lizi-Nechung port near the Tibet border, as per the joint statement issued during Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s visit to China in late September.
The port is situated across the border from Nepal’s bordering village Korala in Mustang district. However, it is not sure when the border would reopen for regular bilateral trade and exchanges, according to Nepali officials.
“At present, this border point remains closed,” said Janak Raj Pant, chief district officer at Mustang. “It is, however, expected to be reopened soon once the Chinese side decides a date.”
He said that Nepal has communicated to the Chinese side of its readiness to reopen the border point. “The Chinese side has communicated that they will fix a date and notify us,” Pant added.
According to him, Nepal has its customs, quarantine, immigration and police offices about eight kilometres within the Tibet border.
A road connecting Jomsom and Korala has also been built. But officials said that they have little work to do as the border point has yet to reopen.
Govinda Prasad Poudel, officiating customs officer at Korala said that the customs office remains without business as the border point has not been reopened yet for bilateral trade.
“Before the Covid pandemic, China would open the border twice a year to allow the locals to shop for goods across the border, but the border has remained closed since the start of the pandemic,” he added.
The Chinese side used to organise a big trade event on their side to promote trade, especially ahead of the Dashain festival.
“Our customs office used to generate around Rs1 million in revenue from imported goods when the border point was open,” Poudel said.
In the lead-up to the Dashain festival, traders would flock to the Korala border point as the demand for Chinese goods increased during this time. On other occasions, the border area usually wears a deserted look.
Before the opening of this border point, the Chinese side had developed the essential infrastructure.
According to a report published in the South China Morning Post in September, construction work on the Lizi Port, which sits at 4,600 metres above sea level, has been completed and it passed an inspection by the commerce ministry.
According to the report, the inspection found that the facility meets government standards and is ready to commence operations. The facility, called Nechung, has been built 12km away from the Nepali border.
The report said that the port would "spur Tibet's opening to the outside world, improve connectivity between China and Nepal, deepen China-Nepal friendly exchanges and cooperation, and promote high-quality economic and social development in Tibet".
Lizi sits on the Korala mountain pass and for centuries has been a market hub where Himalayan residents have traded grain, salt and goats. According to the joint statement, the Chinese side will extend its support to improve the facilities on the Nepali side of the Lizi-Nechung port at the earliest possible time. Poudel said that currently his office has no infrastructure except a worn out building and some furniture but no necessary equipment.
When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Nepal in October 2019, the two sides agreed to open the Lizi-Nechung trade route "at the earliest possible time" as well as build necessary infrastructure on the Nepali side of the border.