KATHMANDU: Experts have stressed the need to strengthen regional connectivity to set ground for economic prosperity of the region. Speakers participating at the fourth edition of the Nepal Infrastructure Summit, which began Thursday in Kathmandu, highlighted the urgency and the significance of stronger connectivity to promote trade and investment. The two-day event is jointly organised by the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport, and the Confederation of Nepal Industries (CNI). They also said that Nepal can benefit from the greater connectivity to boost exports of energy and agriculture produces and promote tourism.
Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Jeevanram Shrestha said that development could not be accelerated without establishing reliable and stronger connectivity. “Strong connectivity is required for the growth of agriculture, tourism and energy sectors. The development of only one country cannot make the world economically strong. It is necessary to advance regional connectivity. The overall economy can be strengthened by the cooperation of neighbouring countries,” said Shrestha.
The government, which currently has two-way air flight agreements with 40 countries, has started preparations to operate flights to America and Russia.
Rajat Nag, representative of the Board of Directors Partnership for Transparency, said that most of the countries in the South Asia region have been increasing investment in the expansion of infrastructure. He said that the border areas of various countries connected with Nepal need to be flexible for regional connectivity.
“There is great potential in regional trade. In terms of infrastructure, there is currently a lack of multi-modal transport. The main need now is to strengthen roads and waterways. 70 percent of goods are transported by road. Most of the trucks are travelling at 30 kilometres per hour,” Nag said. He informed that 750 trucks are being inspected daily in the Indian border area and 350 freight trucks are being inspected daily on the Bangladesh border. Cecil Freeman of the World Bank said there is a need for easy movement of cargo vehicles in countries connected to Nepal by land routes.
“The South Asia region has great potential for cross-border trade. For this, the cargo vehicles that go back and forth between Nepal and India should be easily managed.” Freeman said, “We have been providing financial support in border and border infrastructure, aviation, waterways, digitalization, climate change, etc. in view of this.”
The World Bank is planning to spend USD 1.2 billion to ease travel between Nepal and Bangladesh. The Bank has provided USD 226 billion of financial assistance for the expansion of energy demand in the world market from 2015 to 2030. Senior Economist of Asian Development Bank (ADB), Thiam Hee Ng said that ADB is currently providing financial support in the energy, transportation and aviation sectors due to Nepal being the centre of Buddhism and having great potential in the tourism sector.
“We are fighting for regional development. We have been providing financial assistance in energy and transportation in Nepal. With regional connectivity, Nepal has great potential for business. Nepal is the main destination for energy and tourism production.” Ng said.
Nandini Thapa, senior director of Nepal Tourism Board, said that the role of regional network is important for the revival and expansion of the country’s tourism sector. “The role of air connectivity, hotels and restaurants are important for the tourism sector of the country, which is gradually returning to its old rhythm after the Covid-19 epidemic,” she said.
Executive Director of Nepal Electricity Authority Kulman Ghising said that the country’s electricity capacity will reach 23 thousand megawatts in the next 4 years. Since there is a possibility of transmission connectivity with India and Bangladesh, there is a plan to start international electricity trade by building structures in the future.
Gyanendra Lal Pradhan, a hydropower entrepreneur and Chairman of Energy Council of Confederation of Nepal Industries, said that India and Bangladesh are the main markets for energy sales in Nepal.
Chief Executive Officer of Millennium Challenge Account (MCA-Nepal) Khadga Bahadur Bisht said that the grant aid under the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact is going to be invested in the expansion of transmission capacity for the development of the energy sector. He said that when the transmission line project under MCC is constructed, the structure will be prepared to send the electricity produced in Nepal to the international market. The two-day summit is to conclude on Friday.