A study conducted by the Nepal Economic Forum under the title ‘Enabling Political and Economic Discourse for Multi-Model Connectivity in the BBIN Sub-region’ was unveiled on June 7 in Kathmandu. Several hurdles to implementing it were identified. Bhutan has already opted out of this agreement, citing environmental issues. However, Nepal is yet to ratify the protocol to implement it.
As per the report, in March 2022, member countries finalized the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for implementation of the BBIN MVA among the three countries, and Sub-Committees have been formed to discuss the modalities of the protocols. The report says the meeting also agreed to operate the transport routes’ Kakarbhitta – Kolkata - Dhaka or Biratnagar - Kolkata, or both, in the next six months.
In a media briefing, Raju Tuladhar, project coordinator for Nepal Economic Forum, informed the media about the progress being made in waterways and railways between Nepal and India, saying that India has consented to provide access to three inland waterways for Nepal which are Kolkata-Kalughat-Raxaul, Birgunj, Kolkata-Sahebgunj- Biratnagar, and Kolkata-Varanasi-Raxaul routes, Birgunj. However, Nepal is yet to develop technical guidelines or standards for inland navigation.
The report also says that Nepal lacks adequate policies and regulations to oversee multi-modal connectivity, and policies such as the Multimodal Transport of Goods act 2006 have not been reviewed to include changes in the trade environment, such as the advancements in technology.
The insufficiency of Nepal's infrastructure and facilities in the gateway ports of India and Bangladesh is one of the challenges it faces in connecting with the global market, the report says.
It has also identified some logistics and transport infrastructure requirements for Nepal like adequate cold storage, warehousing, freight stations, laboratory and parking facilities, basic amenities such as washrooms and restrooms which are gender-friendly, single-window compliance with supporting infrastructure (computers, stable internet, 24*7 electricity); and development and upgradation of the road infrastructure.
In another presentation, Suresh P. Singh, Fellow, Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), outlined the studies conducted in four countries regarding BBIN- motor vehicle movement. The studies suggested four corridors for vehicular movement within this region. The first corridor connects Nepal to Bangladesh through India (Kathmandu - Kakarbhitta/Panitanki-Siliguri - Fulbari/Banglabandha – Dhaka Mangla/ Chattogram. It has recommended inter-modal trans-shipment facilities and a fully operational Special Economic Zone in Bhairahawa, Rupandehi District, and expediting the Railway project connecting Kakarbhitta, Nepal to Kanchanpur, Nepal (in progress), among others.
The second corridor that it suggested is connecting Kathmandu to Kolkata/Haldia and Visakhapatnam in India [Kathmandu - Birgunj/Raxaul - Biratnagar/Jogbani Bhairahawa/Sonauli - Kolkata/Haldia and Vishakapatnam (alternative intermodal accessibility for Nepal to India's National Waterways-1 i.e., from Kalughat to Raxaul, and Sahibganj to Biratnagar, Visakhapatnam to Nautanwa). The third corridor connects Bhutan to Bangladesh through Northeast India [Thimphu/Phuentsholing (Bhutan) to Dhubri and Jogighopa (Northeast India) to Chattogram and Mongla Ports (Bangladesh) - (multi-modal transport and transit access by road, inland waterways and railways), and the fourth one connects Bhutan to Bangladesh through Northeast India [Thimphu/Phuentsholing (Bhutan) to Dhubri and Jogighopa (Northeast India) to Chattogram and Mongla Ports (Bangladesh) - (multi-modal transport and transit access by road, inland waterways and railways).
During the discussion, Tuladhar pointed out that there is a visa problem as India doesn’t provide an on-arrival visa to the national of Bangladesh, which hinders the movement of people from Bangladesh to Nepal and India.
According to the report, the stakeholders expressed the fear of job losses due to seamless movement aimed by BBIN MVA (containerized cargo leading to the loss of jobs, particularly in loading and unloading). It was also found that Indian transport operators have easy access to Nepal while Nepali transporters face huge difficulties in India.