January 24: The newly-constructed Chobhar Dry Port is likely to become a white elephant because the dry port on the southern outskirts of Kathmandu has not been active even one year after it came into operation.
According to government data, only 77 containers have entered the dry port since it came into operation while only three containers have left the premises.
The Chobhar Dry Port was built with an investment of Rs 1.5 billion. It took three years to complete the construction of the dry port.
It was inaugurated by the then Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba in last March. The port is spread over an area of 220 ropanis. The dry port can hold 500 containers.
Such a large dry port was constructed in Chobhar to facilitate the import and export of goods to and from Kathmandu, the largest city of the country, as well as reduce congestion at major customs such as Birgunj, and Bhairahawa.
However, the disappointment in operating the dry port has led to concerns that the huge investment has been of no use.
Ashish Gajurel, executive director of the Nepal Intermodal Transport Development Committee, which is responsible for the operation of the dry port, says that the port is not running as expected. "There has been a problem in operations because the Kathmandu-Nijgadh fast track, which is close to the dry port, is yet to be built," he said, adding that there is not much support from the private sector. The government has not made a binding arrangement either.
According to Gajurel, it will be easier if the government makes arrangements to bring certain materials coming into the valley through the Chobhar Dry Port. Most of the goods entering Nepal through the Birgunj customs come to Kathmandu Valley.
The road used by cargo trucks to enter Kathmandu from the dry port in Chobhar via Balkhu stretched up to ten kilometers and is narrow. The containers trucks are reluctant to come to Chobhar dry port as the route is more expensive and uncomfortable.
Containers coming to Chobhar have to go through the process twice -- at Birganj Customs and Chobhar Customs, the traders said. They also complain that the Department of Customs has imposed heavy fines on GPS.
A fine of up to 200 per cent has been imposed if the lock of the GPS is opened while coming from the border crossing to the customs at Chobhar Dry Port.
“This is a very large fine. What can we do if the lock is opened due to some other reasons? Instead of Chobhar, it would have been easier to bring the goods through a checkpoint at Birganj or Bhairahawa customs," said Dinesh Shrestha, vice president of the Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
According to Shrestha, the letter sent to the government with suggestions on what should be done to run the Chobhar Dry Port properly has not been addressed. "Government’s readiness is not seen for the efficient operation of the port, which was built at such an expense," he said.
The Department of Customs has said that the traders are doing business without using the Chobhar Dry Port.