BANEPA, Aug 7: The government has finally started works of infrastructure building for Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Panchkhal valley of Kavre after a hiatus of seven years after the land acquisition.
The zone is primarily for setting up industries to boost the country’s export, which has seen a continuous deterioration for the past two decades, owing to decline of the manufacturing sector.
Locals, who had provided land for the project from the community forest, are happy with the news that construction works have begun of the key project that they believe will make an economic transformation in their district.
Spokesperson for Special Economic Zone Authority, Sundar Thapa, said the work have now started after the authority signed contract with the contractor recently.
The authority has allocated Rs 2.95 billion for investment on the project. The construction of road, water, and electricity supply had started previously but there was not much progress, without any clear reason.
“We have recently signed contract with the contractor to begin the construction of administrative building,” Thapa said. “The construction works are taking place at a fast pace. The project is expected to be completed within the next three years.”
Total 600 ropanis of land of Devisthan Pandulla Suwarneshwori Community Forest and 400 ropanis of Shikharpukhar Community Forest were given to the Ministry of Industry for construction of the SEZ, where industries are set up with all essential facilities. The ministry had paid Rs 200 million to the community for the land. The forest user groups are now happy with the beginning of construction works at SEZ, finally.
“We took care of the forest as if it were our own child. When the government didn’t begin works on infrastructure, we were extremely disappointed,” Karma Singh Lama, chairperson of Devisthan Forest Group, said. “Now that the construction process has begun, we are pleased.”
Lama asked the government to develop the project causing minimal damage to the remaining forest area in the project site.
Panchkal SEZ will be different from the recently constructed Bhairahawa SEZ and the next in the making, Simara SEZ. It will have unique infrastructure including a swimming pool and entertainment center within the SEZ premises.
Thapa said that the construction process had been slow until now because of procedural delays in acquiring permits to cut down trees.
“Much time was wasted in getting the Environmental Impact Assessment report approved in the beginning, and then there were further delays in getting permission from the forest authorities to cut down trees,” Thapa said.
Of the 1000 ropanis of forest land (approximately 50 hectares) acquired for the project, government authorities have only allowed forest clearance in one hectare for building physical structures.
Thapa said they needed further permission for construction of different infrastructure, which might cause further delays. “The currently issued permission is enough only to construct a few administrative buildings,” he said.
As per the master plan, the zone will accommodate as many as 52 export-oriented industries. Chinese entrepreneurs are also keenly interested to set up their plants in the zone in coordination with Nepali industrialists.
Dil Sundar Taksari Shrestha, member of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) said: “Because of unnecessary delays in the developmental process, Chinese entrepreneurs may hesitate to come to Nepal. So, it is important to build the plant rapidly to make those investors confident that the project gets completed on time.”
According to Shrestha, the Chinese entrepreneurs are interested in starting furniture industries in Nepal and exporting goods to different parts of the world including Europe.