About a week from now, Nepal will have its second motorable entry point into Tibet, and it could soon outperform the existing Kodari route.
The 16-km Syafrubesi-Rasuwagadhi gravel track will be ready next week after completion of work on the remaining 200 meters, according to the Ministry of Physical Planning and Works. Reaching Rasuwagadhi by motorable road would provide a passage to Kerung in Tibet, where China has long been investing heavily to develop it as a largest ever trade center.
China has already constructed a 22 km connecting road from Kerung to the Rasuwagadhi border, which is about 84 km from Trishuli in Nepal. Taking into account the distance from Kathmandu, it is not a shorter route compared to the Kodari route to Khasa. However, it could usher in a new era of Nepal-Tibet trade after it is connected to the Prithvi Highway by the 18 km Trishuli-Galchhi road which is under-construction under an ADB grant and set for completion in two years.
"The whole nation will have easier connection to Tibet through this road," said Joint-Secretary Tulsi Sitaula, chief of Construction Department at the ministry. "Getting so close a connection to a major highway will take Nepal-Tibet trade to a new height."
The single-lane track measuring only 16 km cost the government of China Rs 1.25 billion, thanks to the difficult terrain. China employed its own workforce for the entire construction.
Meanwhile, China is working on a war footing to build a new city in Kerung valley.
According to experts who are aware of China´s Nepal-Tibet trade strategy, Kerung will probably replace Khasa which is already congested and has no space for extension owing to the arduous lay of the land. While building skyscrapers, deluxe hotels and roads, China has even subsidized the residents of Kerung to go for modern houses.
While racing with urbanization, Kerung is also going to dovetail with the Lhasa-Beijing railway, which is now being extended to Sigatshe. "From Sigatshe it will turn to Kerung as China is clear that extending it to Khasa is not viable and useful," said Maheshwor Lal Shrestha, ex-chief of the Syafrubesi-Rasuwagadhi Road Project.
According to Sitaula, the Rasuwa route to Tibet could also make it a big in tourism. "It cuts nearly 200 km, the distance from Tatopani to Rasuwa, en route to Mansarobar from Nepal," he said.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government has recently decided to open the Kerung border to tourists from the beginning of January. Prior to this, the border was open only for trade purposes.
Technically, the Syafrubesi-Rasuwagadhi road is more reliable than the Kodari Highway, said Sitaula. "Except for a point at Mulkharka in Rasuwa where there is persistent landslide, the entire road is well-built and durable," he added. The road has nine big bridges.
The Nepal government has also kept the Rasuwa border on top of its security priority. The Armed Police Force had recommended establishing border observation posts at three different places in Rasuwa after a field study in October.