The Chinese government has moved to build an inland container depot (ICD) at Rasuwagadhi in Rasuwa district on the Nepal-China border as a gift to Nepal. Rasuwagadhi lies 150 km to the north of Kathmandu on the fabled trans-Himalayan caravan route.
According to the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies, the northern neighbour has recently sent a note of exchange to the Nepal government for the construction of the proposed ICD. “We have received the draft framework agreement through the Finance Ministry,” said Jib Raj Koirala, joint secretary at the Commerce Ministry. The Finance Ministry has asked for the Commerce Ministry’s consent to finalize the draft before signing a memorandum of understanding.”
Government officials said that the Chinese side had agreed to construct the proposed ICD free of cost. The facility will be built in Timure VDC of Rasuwa district.
As per the plan, the ICD will be spread over 6,900 square metres. The complex will consist of a customs check point, quarantine yard, banking space, cargo system and warehouse and necessary equipment. China has also agreed to construct a parking lot in the area.
China will build two warehouses for cargo and litigation purposes. Importers and exporters will be able to store goods in the cargo warehouse for a certain period of time. The litigation warehouse will be used to store goods which need further investigation before they can be cleared.
Similarly, three quarantine check points for animals, plants and food testing and laboratories will be constructed. The Chinese government had agreed in principle to construct the ICD during bilateral talks held in Kathmandu last October. It has already conducted a feasibility study for the project. The ICD in Rasuwagadhi is the second such facility that the Chinese government will be building in Nepal. It is also constructing an ICD in Larcha, Sindhupalchok.
During a visit to Nepal in January 2012, the then Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao had agreed to support Nepal to establish six dry ports at major customs points along the northern border including Rasuwagadhi.
Currently, the Tatopani border is the main land route for trade with China. The construction of the ICD in Rasuwagadhi is expected to facilitate trade with the northern neighbour by providing an alternative trade route.
Koirala said they would soon return the draft agreement to the Finance Ministry after reviewing it. According to officials, the government has also planned to request China to construct a road connecting the ICD to the Galchhi-Dhunche-Rasuwagadhi route in the second phase.
Last August, China had briefly opened the Rasuwagadhi route after the Tatopani border was cut off due to landslides on Araniko Highway. Nepali importers were able to reroute their shipments via Rasuwagadhi for some time before China closed it again citing lack of infrastructure on its side of the border. The border officially came into operation on December 2, 2014 when China launched its Kyirong Port.