Aug 9, 2017

Nepal-India railway project goes off track

Construction of cross-border broad gauge railway line from Katahari in the eastern Nepali district of Morang and Bathnaha in the Indian state of Bihar has come to a halt after landowners, who were not happy with compensation extended by the government, moved the Supreme Court.

The railway project, which will be linked with the government’s East-West railway project via Itahari, requires around 42 bigha (27.7 hectares) of land at Budhnagar in Biratnagar Metropolitan City.

Most of the landowners have already relinquished their property and accepted compensation extended by the government. However, 21 landowners are saying compensation fixed by the government is too low. These people have moved the Supreme Court, according to Santa Maharjan, an engineer of the Railway Department.

“This is expected to delay the project construction which is already running behind schedule,” Maharjan said.

The government has already acquired 119 bigha of land to build the railway line. It has, so far, distributed Rs530 million in compensation to landowners who surrendered their property for construction of the railway project. The land was acquired at prices ranging from Rs90,000 to Rs2.5 million per kattha.

The proposed cross-border railway line stretches 18.1 km from Katahari in Nepal to Bathnaha in India. Of this railway track, 13.1 km falls in Nepal. This line stretches from Budhnagar to Katahari.

The track of 18.1-km railway line has already been opened. Indian Railway Construction International, the project contractor, has also completed works related to construction of culvert and bridges. Currently, a train station of 1,500 metres in length is also being built in Budhnagar.

“Other construction work is being delayed because of us,” Maharjan said, adding, “We hope the compensation-related case will be settled soon. Otherwise, the project would be delayed.”

The estimated cost of Katahari-Bathnaha railway project stands at around IRs2.8 billion.

Although the governments of Nepal and India had planned to complete the project within two years of launch of construction, problems such as dispute over land compensation and Indian trade blockade caused delays.

Use of the broad-gauge railway for import of goods is expected to reduce transportation cost by 50 percent. This will eventually reduce the cost of production. This will not only bring down prices of goods manufactured in Nepal but will help the government to contain inflation.
Source - Kathmandu Post

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