Urgency of Connectivity for a Crying Nation

Urgency of Connectivity for a Crying Nation

September 7, 2019

Subid Ghimire

B.E Civil, IOE Pulchowk Campus Freelancer, Enthusiast in Transportation, Land Use and Econometric Modeling.

Hemant Tiwari

Masters in Transportation Engineering, IOE Pulchwok Campus;Working as Transport expert in Investment Board Nepal He holds the position of Chairperson at Safe and Sustainable Travel Nepal (SSTN), NGO working for safe, systematic, reliable and sustainable public transportation in Nepal. Along with that, he is also “Managing Director” at Traffic and Transportation Unlimited Solution (TATUS), organization providing complete solution on transportation sector. He is also a Research Director at Aayam Engineering Research and Consultancy (AERC).

Urgency of Connectivity for a Crying Nation

Sedition heralds more havoc than earthquake for the nation and it has started taking shape which is not startling, relating to relatively longer travel time between Kathmandu and Janakpur as compared to Janakpur and Patna. As Huttington puts it in his widely read work “The clash of civilizations and the Remaking of World order”, the world is neither one, two or equal to the number of states but an infinite set of tribes, ethnic groups and nationalities. He stresses that states are going to remain the primary actors in world politics but their interests and alliances are going to be shaped by civilizational/ cultural backgrounds. He elucidates this with an example of Russia and Ukraine on the basis of statist and civilizational approach.

The statist theory envisaged a war between Russia and Ukraine which shared open border while the civilizational theory expected the splitting up of Ukraine on the grounds of cultural fault lines, precisely, Orthodox western Ukraine and Uniate eastern Ukraine. The civilizational theory thus suggests the economic connectivity between eastern and western Ukraine rather than Ukraine developing anti-Russia sentiments. The statist theory does exist but an armed confrontation between nations with massively varying populations is quite unlikely and thus, what should concern our political leadership more is the other aforementioned dimension.

The civilization theory should urge the policy makers to address the cultural fault lines and it is necessary to realize that transfer of political power which is mostly emphasized in Nepal is not necessarily the only way to respond. The approach should have been to assist the assimilation of cultures and the eradication of abject poverty people are in.

Transfer of political power between communities does not necessarily assure this, but a robust transportation network does. In fact this background justifies as to why investment in transportation sector should be viewed as an opportunity and why every sector of the nation should feel excited to participate in. Thus, the relevant question is not about whether investments are necessary for a robust transportation network but rather the kind of transportation system entailed, because the technicalities involved within any type of network would be trivial compared to the political background presented.

It is a textbook knowledge that an undergraduate student of transportation musters that the market and transportation network of the neighboring countries be taken into account while taking the entire nation as the study area. Thus, with the Chinese railway approaching close to our borders and the strong support currently exhibited by the Indian counterparts, in assisting the construction of Kathmandu-Raxaul railway, it’s time we capitalize this opportunity for Nepal.

A robust railway network to be powered by electricity would provide ample grounds for us to enter into a virtuous circle wherein transport and the energy sector which have always been prioritized in the National Plans would go together sufficing each other. Being a means of public transport, the assimilation it would assist between different cultural backgrounds in addition to economic connectivity do not seem to be quantifiable when the cultural faults are showing up progressively and when the fault lines are openly exposed to the “Breaking Nepal” forces.

The government has realized this but has not been able to capitalize the urgency of this compared to our neighboring nations. For instance, there are basically two types of gauges used in Railway, particularly, Broad gauge mostly used in India and the Standard Gauge used in China and other countries around the world, and it is up to the Government of Nepal to decide the type of gauge they want to have for the nation. Without adequate consideration into this aspect, the construction of East-West railway has already started which seems quite an imprudent decision. On the grounds of “Western one Vs. Non-western many” , it is no longer uncomfortable to assert that Nepal has been used for the “neighbor containment policy”, provided that there are books being written about it and are being openly discussed in forums.

The people of Nepal will have to be aware of and united against this ideology which we are being used for and it demands a strong transportation network to keep ourselves united and directed towards prosperity.

Many experts are skeptic about the economic outputs of Kathmandu Keirung Railway, possibly on the grounds of “economic location theory” which considers distance to be the crucial factor for the determination of market area for the sales of any production or the selection of a particular mode for transport. This logic is true in the sense that the port of Guangzhou is more than 5000kms away.

However, time of travel in days is less than even 3 days once the Keirung Kathmandu railway is connected to the Chinese railway network. Direct trade with eastern countries like Japan, Philippines and Korea would be much easier pertaining to the overall distance that the railway and the ships need to travel. This way the Guangzhou port would prove to be more efficient than the port that is currently in use. This rail line should also involve Nepalese technical skill so that the transfer of technical knowledge pertaining to railway will assist us strategically in the future while constructing other railway lines.

A pertinent exemplification for technology transfer is Mr. Ng Hau Wei who is a Malaysian engineer that headed the MRT- tunnel construction project in Kualalampur. He applied the experience he gained in the smart tunnel construction project whereby he worked under his mentor Gusztav Klados. Klados is a Hungarian tunneling expert having tunneling experiences of the already built Channel Tunnel that links the UK and France. Nevertheless, talks on railway do not imply complete abrogation of road networks.

Railway is a mode with limited facility of door to door service and is quite inflexible as compared to roads, thus they need to be integrated effectively with the road networks. However, the capacity of railway both in terms of passengers and freight outweighs that of roads. The matter being discussed here is that of intercity travel, which would be curtailed to minutes, following the introduction of even medium speed trains.

The travel time would not only be able to beat the travel time by road but would also compete that of air travel which is gaining popularity in Nepal for long distance or intercity travel, particularly for medium and high income classes. On the cultural part, Nepal and Tibet share a long history of togetherness and there are many aspects of cultural interchange which are to be brought out through connectedness and research. It is needless to point out the cultural and religious ties Nepal and India have had for centuries but it seems to have been forgotten that the historical ties between Nepal and Tibet were stronger than relations between any surrounding nations, particularly during the Lichhavi reign and these projects have the strength to rejuvenate those days which is also the subconscious policy of the entire subcontinent.

Nepal thus has an opportunity to not only bestow the two neighboring giants, an easy route for a share on each other’s market but movement of people in the form of tourists and people to people contact would also help substantialize the “Look East” policy of the present Indian Government. Nepalshould be able to capitalize this opportunity to ameliorate its strategic and geopolitical strength for which internal political stability will have to yield considerable results on the aspect of connectivity and social cohesiveness.

This article was published in Sallerikhabar.com