Integrated Check Post, Birgunj is seen in this undated photo. Photo: Republica Files
KATHMANDU, Oct 12: The government is revising the design of integrated check posts (ICPs) at Nepalgunj and Bhairahawa, realizing the need for sufficient spaces at the customs point to accommodate large volume of goods.
Design changes are being made after experiencing congestion at the integrated check post of Birgunj, officials say. The government has already acquired land at both Nepalgunj and Bhairahawa, while the process of preparing new design is underway, they added.
The ICP at Birgunj was designed as part of reform works at customs points of both Nepal and India. The main purpose of building ICP was to make ensure availability of similar facilities at both sides of the border to ease bilateral trade.
The design of Birgunj ICP was prepared in 2005, while it took over a decade to complete construction work. The ICP started operation from December, 2016. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had formally inaugurated the ICP from New Delhi earlier in April.
Volume of trade has increased significantly since 2005. The design of the ICP was prepared without foreseeing the growth in trade volume between Nepal and India. Nepal imports through India have grown by leaps and bounds since 2005, while its export to the southern neighbor has remained almost stagnant over the years.
“Nepal's trade has seen an overwhelming growth over the period. High import growth has made customs yard and parking space at ICP too congested,” Shishir Dhungana, revenue secretary of the Ministry of Finance, said.
Handling exports is easier than imports which needs detailed examining of imported goods and lengthy customs process.
Works on second ICP in the country at Nepal-India border in Jogbani are at the last leg. The ICP is expected to start operation from February next year. But the Jogbani ICP is likely to experience similar problem like the one in Birgunj as both the check posts have similar design.
"We couldn't change the design of Jogbani ICP as contract for construction work was already awarded," Dhungana said. "As a contingency plan, the government has acquired some land between dry port and ICP. We can expand the ICP as per the need."
Officials say the new ICPs at Bhairahawa and Nepalgunj are being designed by forecasting trade volume of at least two decades.
Speaking at the meeting of the parliamentary Finance Committee on Sunday, Former Finance Minister Surendra Pandey came down heavily on the government, stating that 10 containers were sufficient to cause chaos at ICP. "The planners are found to have taken a short-term approach. The country is suffering from congestion at its largest trading point," he added.