Asian Highway section to open on Jan 1The six-lane highway and a ‘friendship bridge’ built over Mechi River are expected to start operation from New Year.
The Nepal section of the Asian Highway, which was constructed two years ago but was not operated fully, will come into operation from January 1, 2023. The six-lane highway and a ‘friendship bridge’ constructed over the Mechi river are expected to start operation from the new year.
A bilateral meeting of customs officers and security officers of Nepal and India held in Panitanki on December 21 agreed to operate the bridge. Ram Prasad Pathak, chief of Mechi Customs Office, and Lha Tshering Sherpa, deputy commissioner of Naxalbari Customs Division, signed the agreement.
“The friendship bridge along with the Asian Highway will come into operation fully following the agreement,” Pathak said. “We are finally successful in the highway operation after arduous efforts.” Pathak added bilateral meetings were held several times regarding the operation of the highway but failed to make any headway.
India, citing security concerns, delayed the operation of the highway and the bridge leaving the local people of both countries in hardships. The Indian side has not allowed vehicles other than goods trucks to use the Asian Highway. There are often hour-long traffic jams as the vehicles have to pass through the old bridge across the Mechi river.
“We are hopeful that the traffic jams in the Nepal-India border area will be resolved by the new year. We expect traffic movement to ease,” said Pathak.
According to a source, the Indian side admitted the delay on their part over the operation of the bridge which was constructed with the investment of the Indian government.
According to the Mechi Customs Office, preparations are on to manage four-wheelers running along the new friendship bridge while two-wheelers and auto-rickshaws will use the old bridge. The old two-lane bridge is overcrowded with vehicles and pedestrians.
Local residents in the border areas on both sides have been hugely affected as the highway and bridge remained unused. “The locals will be relieved of the chronic problem while crossing the border once the bridge comes into operation,” said Gopal Chandra Budhathoki, mayor of Mechinagar Municipality.
With the loan assistance of IRs 1.5 billion from the Asian Development Bank, the Indian government constructed the six-lane friendship bridge and around 500 metres of the access road. Then-prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi had signed an agreement to construct the 575-metre long friendship bridge over the Mechi six years ago.
The Asian Highway, also known as the Great Asian Highway, is a 141,000km long road network covering 32 countries. The highway runs 1,321kms in Nepal.