The word Aakashvani came into the Nepali lexicon when telegrams were introduced into Nepal. That its usage in India took a slightly different form is another matter. After all we do differ on certain matters!
The first cable movements of goods to Kathmandu valley was by the ropeway carrying two tons per hour and constructed under the direction of a British engineer Kilburn for Nepal government. Subsequently a larger version, was built by the Riblett Tramway Company of America carrying 35 tons per hour. Years later the Mankamana Cable Car started ferrying humans to the ‘Wish Come True’ temple atop a mountain. Most recent is the cable car to the Chandragiri Hill slopes enabling Nepalis to stand on the spot from where Prithvi Narayan Shah contemplated his onslaught of Kathmandu valley. As a result Chitlang and Kulekhani are becoming tourist hubs of the twenty-first century. Construction of the much discussed Dhunche- Gosainkund Cable car in Pradesh No. 3 is in process of starting. What must be remembered is that rapid ascents to great heights can result in altitude sickness and some travellers can suddenly die! Another worry is that the construction process, which has to be done across the National Park may disturb and displace many animals. Other projects - Kuri to Kalinchowk and to tops e.g. of Shivpuri and Peace Pagoda in Pokhara are on the drawing boards. Many applications, whether realistic or not, are pending.
In Dec. 2017 the Investment Board of Nepal had directed the Kathmandu Monorail Company Pvt. Ltd, to do a feasibility study to explore the possibility of constructing an electric train beside the 27 Km Ring Road, but laying down conditions before starting the work. A spat has now broken out and a stay order obtained from the court.
During this ongoing period, the enthusiastic Mayor of Kathmandu invited the China Railway 25 Bureau Group, of state owned China Railway Construction Company (CRCC) to repeat a feasibility study, to be completed in six months time. The Mayor’s hope is for the project to be completed during his tenure!
Recently another feasibility study by French teams SYSTRA and MDP, financed by the Government of France has been completed for a Kathmandu City Urban Cable Car Project. This 7km line will have seven stations between Boudha and Bishnumati at Kalimati and is claimed to ease Kathmandu’s traffic congestion. Such cable cars are said to be functioning in a number of cities worldwide.
Recounting his first 100 days our PM KP Sharma Oli stated that besides the railhead to Biratnagar and Janakpur that Indian Railways was extending, India was in the process of helping us to build the Kathmandu to Birgunj line. Presently the line from Raxaul to Birgunj already exists. An awkward reality is that we may have to lease a locomotive to run on the rails and pull the carriages! Following our PM’s six days visit to China one hopes that our Northern neighbour will construct the electric railway line from Kerung to Kathmandu as a goodwill gesture. My concern is that if China builds it completely, we will not put much value on it as we have not paid for it. Hopefully the rails will not be removed and stolen like the overhead wires of the trolley buses route. The story of the Chinese Aided Trolley Bus Service of Kathmandu should not be repeated!
The East-West electric train project is in full swing too. This is all good news, for with the projected increase in electrical energy we Nepalis will be able to increase our industrial production and transport facilities whilst reducing our import of petrol and diesel. This will be a massive contribution to the effort to make Nepalis stand on their own feet.
Another noteworthy act by KP Sharma Oli’s is the effort to make Nepal’s access to the sea by boat, courtesy India and Bangladesh. We could save a lot on our fuel bill. A lot of cargo goes up and down the well known rivers of Europe such as Thames, Rhine and Danube. If we could replicate it here by taking cargo down the Koshi, Rapti and Narayani rivers, flowing down through India to the delta of Bangladesh, it would be great. The fact that all the three countries involved are members of SAARC and BIMSTEC should help to make it a reality. However our rivers are said to be shallow and the water content little except at time of the monsoon. Up and down navigation on the rivers, on barges rather than small ships may be possible to carry the goods or even people. Waste oil from these would not be environment friendly and be danger to aquatic life. Use of hydrofoil boats or hovercraft is another option but would be very costly.
Whilst running a Nepali shipping company had been contemplated during Panchyat days, it had not been turned into reality. There are landlocked countries of the world which are doing so as a business enterprise. If done our Nepali flag will not just flutter on our Government building, mountains and ministerial residences but also on the High Sea Tides!
Besides the many projected roads and railways into the capital that have been envisaged there are two additional Trans Nepal roadways. The initial building of these and the subsequent running and maintenance will be very costly. Great mobility within the country would be attained but at what cost? The immense import of goods, with hardly any exports means that the containers have to be transported back empty? Finally though utterances are profusely made, many of the promised projects are usually not started and never completed. Many funds promised following the earthquake of 2015 have still to be received!