The Kathmandu Post, January 24, 2019
Nepal’s only integrated check post in Birgunj, Parsa district is not functioning at full capacity even one and a half years after opening due to delays in widening the road linking it to the dry port.
The expansion of the 700-metre-long road begun in March 2018, but the project stalled as it is yet to acquire the necessary land. According to Keval Chaudhary, an official of the Pathlaiya commercial highway which is executing the project, 176 landowners have received compensation totalling Rs617.77 million for their land. Around one and a half dozen landowners are yet to be contacted. “Most of the landowners who have not come forward to collect their compensation are involved in title disputes,” said Chaudhary.
A joint venture of Pappu and Lumbini Construction received the contract to expand the road. It is unwilling to move the project forward until all the necessary land has been acquired. Delays in the upgradation of the road have prevented the integrated check post from operating in a full-fledged manner. The facility was envisaged to ease congestion at Birgunj customs point through which 60 percent of Nepal’s imports enter the country.
Built with the Indian government’s financial assistance, the integrated check post was inaugurated jointly by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi by pressing a button in New Delhi in April last year. Since the inauguration, the check post has been used mainly to bring in petroleum products from India. Goods such as blades, crude oil, pepper and industrial raw materials also pass through here.
Many importers are not keen on using this cross-border point because of its poor road access. Last year, a truck carrying pepper fell off the road because of its narrow width. For this reason, cargo truck drivers fear using the road.
The integrated check post is spread over 165 acres. It contains 22 buildings which house the customs, immigration and border security personnel of the Armed Police Force.
Parking and goods inspection yards, meeting halls, warehouses, banks, health centre and coffee house occupy 184,000 square metres. These facilities, built at a cost of around IRs860 million, were expected to ease imports and exports of goods to and from Nepal. But these objectives have not been met so far due to the sorry state of road.