After Sri Lanka and PAK, now Nepal is going to be trapped in China’s trap? Questions are being raised on the Lhasa-Kathmandu rail project

Lhasa to Kathmandu Rail Project: It has been history that whoever worked on any project with China, that country came in a state of destruction. Sri Lanka and Pakistan are examples of this in recent times. In fact, both the countries took loans from Sri Lanka and allowed some of their projects to be built here. Due to this his economy got ruined. Now questions are also being raised about the railway line project being built between Lhasa and Kathmandu. Experts believe that the amount spent on this project is very high and it will only increase in the coming time. Recently, Zhang Jiadong, a professor at Fudan University in China, said the proposed Nepal-China border crossing Lhasa-Shigatse-Kerung-Kathmandu railway could cost around $8 billion. The professor, citing preliminary studies, said that the railway project will be more than 500 km long and the cost is not low even by Chinese standards.

‘Construction cost may increase further’

Discussing the railway project cost, Zhang wrote on the university’s website, “This cost is only a preliminary estimate, as a large-scale survey is yet to be done. Once the construction of the project starts, the cost could go up.” According to the Kathmandu Post, the Nepalese official—who previously worked closely with the Chinese side and held several rounds of talks on the project—said that if Nepal Kerung agrees to build a rail from Kathmandu to Kathmandu, then it will have to invest in a project that is part of Nepal. The total length of the line will be 599.41 km, of which 527.16 km will be in China and 72.25 km in Nepal. The section from Kerung (Paiku Lake) to Kathmandu will be 170.41 km long.

Complex terrain will be a hindrance to the project

Madhusudan Adhikari, former secretary of the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transportation, said, “From Shigaste to Lake Paiku on the Chinese side, the topography is flat and stable, but from Kerung to Nepal, the topography is steep, which will increase the construction cost. On our side of the border Barely two per cent of the railway line will be laid on the ground surface.” He has held several rounds of talks with the Chinese side, which first received the report of the Nepal-China border crossing railways in 2018. The report said that the complex terrain and engineering would be the most important constraint to build this project.

No progress on starting feasibility study

China has already started studying the project on its border. In addition, China had promised to fund studies on the Nepalese side, for which Nepal has already given its approval, and several agreements on the project since the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Nepal in October 2019. It has also been done. However, a senior Railway Department official told the Kathmandu Post that no progress has been made so far on starting a feasibility study on the Nepalese side. The official further said that it will cost around one billion RMB or about Rs 18 billion for the Kerung-Kathmandu railway to conduct a feasibility study in 2018. Now the investment cost would have gone up. So we need to study first whether the returns are more than the investment and whether we can recover the investment.

Professor Zhang claims that there are 6 major geologists The problems are, there may be problems of hard rock bursting, problems of high intensity seismic zone, including overheating etc. Historically, this would be the most difficult and risky railway construction project in the world. Balram Mishra, former Director General of the Railway Department was quoted as saying that based on current estimates, the construction of the railway from Kerung to Kathmandu would cost around $3-3.5 billion.

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