Chinese customs officials have agreed to release millions of rupees worth of imports stranded in Khasa for the last two months following the terrible earthquake, but frequent landslides on the Tatopani section of Araniko Highway have prevented their shipment to Kathmandu.
The Chinese authorities decided to reopen the customs office on Friday after a long break to clear goods belonging to Nepali traders stuck at the border. A Chinese official team including Nepal’s Consular General in Lhasa Hari Prasad Bashyal left for Khasa on Wednesday.
Jib Raj Koirala, joint secretary of the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies, said that Lhasa customs officials had agreed to resume office on Thursday. “However, landslides on Araniko Highway have created problems.”
Due to landslide risks and damage to the Miteri Bridge on the Nepal-China border, transportation was halted after the April 25 earthquake. A Chinese crew has been working to clear landslide debris from the highway.
The road had been cleared by the Roads Department with assistance from China following the disaster, but it was further damaged by fresh tremors on May 12.
Traders are unaware of the status of their goods since one of the country’s major trade routes was cut off. They have been pleading with political party leaders to do something to reopen the highway. “We are optimistic that the problem has been resolved,” said Bishnu Bahadur Khatri, president of the Nepal Trans-Himalaya Border Commerce Association. “The Chinese side has pledged to release the containers from Friday.”
A Nepali delegation comprising customs officials and representatives of business associations is also preparing to visit Miteri Bridge to make the necessary arrangements for the resumption of trade through here, said Sishir Dhungana, director general of the Department of Customs.
“In the first phase, we will give priority to releasing sealed containers stranded on the jungle section of the road,” he said. Then other containers stored in the warehouse will be cleared. The Chinese side has asked for the names, citizenship numbers and vehicle numbers of the drivers of the container trucks.
However, the Barhabise- Tatopani road section remains a matter of concern. According to Kamlesh Kumar Karna, chief of the Road Division Office of Charikot, a 1-kilometre section between Chaku and Daklang has been damaged by landslides. “We are working to clear the road.”
There have been landslides in Sakhuwa, Nayapul, Jhayalabhir, Chaku, Dakalang, Larchha, Duskilo, Ghattekhola and Liping. Besides the Miteri Bridge, the Fulping Bridge which is located 5 kilometres to the west of the Nepal-China border has been severely damaged.
Fear of further landslides has prompted not only outsiders but also most local traders to shift from the area. Even the police post at the customs point has been relocated since the earthquake. More than 50 vehicles have been reported to be buried under landslides triggered by the tremor. Container trucks at Liping, Duskilo, Marmin and Kodari were the hardest hit.