KATHMANDU, AUG 21 – Nepal and India have formally begun talks on developing the much-delayed 41-km Amlekhgunj-Raxaul petroleum pipeline project.
During his Nepal visit in the first week of August, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had pledged expediting the project.
Officials at Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) and Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) on Wednesday held talks on probable routes to lay the pipeline after field inspections in Amlekhgunj. A 12-member high-level IOC delegation arrived to Nepal on Tuesday evening for the talks.
The project, which has been left in limbo for the last two decades, is expected help reduce leakage, make the supply cleaner and cheaper and provide relief to Nepali consumers from frequent shortages caused by strikes.
Wednesday’s meeting discussed two alternative pipeline routes—right alignment of the Birgunj-Amlekhgunj road and railway corridor that links Amlekhgunj with India’s Raxaul via Birgunj. The corridor has so far remained unused. Of the 41km pipeline, 39km lies on the Nepali side of the border.
“The meeting focused on different alternative routes,” said Bhanu Khanal, chief of NOC’s Amlekhgunj depot.
He said other issues like land compensation, linking the pipeline with the proposed second international airport in Nijgadh, Bara, the number of trees that need to be chopped and an alternative of the pipeline if it comes under the Simara Airport were also discussed.
“As the pipeline has become a must for Nepal, we are working on a war-footing to ensure timely implementation of the project this time,” he said. The Indian government has given the IOC until August 24 to submit its preliminary report.
Earlier, a detailed project report of the IOC had suggested the NOC to lay the pipeline 1.5m below the ground. For this, NOC will not have to purchase land from individual land owners, but has to take the the “right of way” permission. However, owners should be compensated for the use of their land.
Land owners should be restricted from developing permanent constructions within five meters on the either side of the pipeline. They, however, can till their land.
During a bilateral talks between the NOC and IOC in Mumbai in March 2011, the two sides had agreed to form a joint committee to carry out work related to tender and procurement of construction materials for the project.
During the talks, the two sides had agreed to implement the project under separate ownership-joint operation model, dropping the previous idea of a joint venture. But it failed to gather momentum with legal and technical complexities emerging in every effort.
The much-talked about the project has been in limbo ever since IOC proposed to build the pipeline in 1995. Even the Cabinet has given go-ahead for the construction of the project for more than four times in last five years.
Source : The Kathmandu Post