RASUWA, March 29: Tatopani and Rasuwagadhi, the main land routes for trade with China, are yet to come into operation despite the decision by both the countries to bring these border points online.
Nepal closed both the border points since January 29, following the outbreak of coronavirus in China. The high-level committee meeting chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Ishwor Pokharel on Wednesday, decided to reopen both the border points with China.
According to the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, the government has come up with the decision citing the reduced cases of infected people in China and possible shortage that could hit Nepal in the aftermath of the government imposing the nationwide lockdown. With increasing cases of infection of the coronavirus in the country, the government is likely to extend the lockdown period further.
Navaraj Dhakal, joint secretary of the ministry, said that the government has officially opened both the trading routes. “However, we are yet to finalize the modality of procedures of customs clearance, quarantine and preventive measures in the newly developed scenario,” said Dhakal.
Dhakal said that, both the governments have accorded to allow movement of tradable goods apart from the preventive health kits. According to him, around 300 trucks of Nepal bound goods are left stranded in Kerung, following the shutdown of the main trading routes with the northern neighbor. “Both the sides have agreed to allow movement of the traded goods only after making them risk free using disinfectant,” said Dhakal.
Last May, the Chinese government allowed movement of traded goods via the Tatopani-Khasa border point, that had remained closed for four years following the 2015 earthquake. However, only nominal consignments were being carried out through this trade route, which happened to be one of the main customs point to yield large portion of revenue to the government.
Rasuwa's chief district officer, Arjun Bhandari, said that they were in dilemma on how to bring into operation the reopened trade route. “We have not yet received official letter of the government in this regard,” said Bhandari.
Bhandari said that, the local people have been pressing the authority not to open the customs point. “However, we are in constant touch with the Chinese authority on how to allow movement along with enforcing the safety measures fully,” he said.
Ensuring effective quarantine check of the imported goods, containers and the truck drivers and assurance of the local people for safety are among the issues that need to be addressed for operationalizing the trade route, according to Bhandari.
Chief of Rasuwagadhi Customs Office, Punya Bikram Khadka, said that they are ready to carry out customs clearance provided the bilateral trade is started.