On The Breakthrough Of The Nagdunga Main Tunnel -For The Development Of Nepal

This is Nepal's first traffic road tunnel, and when it is completed after interior work such as lining, connecting the equipment, the convenience of traffic will be greatly improved, which will be extremely significant for the promotion of the local economy as well. I would like to express my sincere congratulations and respect to all those involved in overcoming numerous difficulties to reach this point.

April 16, 2024, 10:07 a.m. Published in Magazine Issue: VOL. 17, No. 18, April.26,2024 (Baishak,14. 2081) Publisher and Editor: Keshab Prasad Poudel Online Register Number: DOI 584/074-75

On 15 April 2024, the main tunnel of the Nagdhunga project was finally penetrated. This is a symbol of Japan's advanced technology and indomitable spirit, along with the cooperation of the Nepali side. It is not the words or the promises that matter, but the delivery. Japan is a country that keeps its words. This is an infrastructure project worth Rs 22 billion, three-quarters of which Japan is supporting through highly concessional loans to the Government of Nepal. This is Nepal's first traffic road tunnel, and when it is completed after interior work such as lining, connecting the equipment, the convenience of traffic will be greatly improved, which will be extremely significant for the promotion of the local economy as well. I would like to express my sincere congratulations and respect to all those involved in overcoming numerous difficulties to reach this point.

To begin with, digging a tunnel in the Himalayan mountainous region, which is still growing and has intricate strata, is an unimaginably difficult challenge. The inside of the evacuation and main tunnels are repeatedly hit by unexpected floods and collapses during the extremely difficult excavation work. Outside the tunnels, heavy rains caused landslides on the slope faces and the Covid-19 pandemic delayed the progress. In addition, there were also human factors such as securing the supply of materials and the understanding of the local community. Against this backdrop, the Japanese companies that undertook the work continued to take on technical challenges, based on their experience in constructing the Sindhuli road, known as BP highway and on the belief that it would surely benefit the Nepali people in the future. For the Nepali engineers who are working with them, this is a unique opportunity to be transferred advanced Japanese skills on site. I remember that my heart was moved to hear from the Japanese project manager that he was looking forward to hearing many Nepali engineers in the future say that they had experienced Nagdhunga.

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Japan has been promoting cooperation projects with the Government of Nepal in various sectors, such as education, health, and institution building to improve governance, as well as in the infrastructure sector, with JICA as the implementing agency. I believe that one of the strengths of Japan's economic cooperation is that it has a variety of schemes that can deliver assistance not only between governments, but also through various actors.

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In the past one year, I signed five new projects for the Grant Assistance for Grass-Roots Human Security Projects (GGP), which provides direct assistance to rural communities, and the Embassy conducted 16 handover ceremonies, which had been stalled due to the Covid-19. Japanese NGOs with support of the Embassy are also engaged in steady activities in various regions and in various fields. Cooperation with international organizations has also proved effective, especially in this country with logistical challenges. A notable example is the delivery of Japanese vaccines to various parts of Nepal in the midst of Covid-19 pandemic with the cooperation of UNICEF, and the emergency response to the Jajarkot earthquake in November last year, which was made possible thanks to a cooperation project on the spot with UNDP.

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So why does Japan support Nepal? It is because Japan is convinced that it can be useful for the development of this country.

As both are mountainous countries and have faced the harsh natural environment since the beginning of time, they share many common challenges, including natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, and other natural disasters as well as climate change. Nepal can learn a lot from Japan's experience such as post-war reconstruction, democratic development, and disaster management. The rapidly growing presence of Nepali in Japan today is a valuable support for Japan's declining birthrate and ageing economy and society, but I sincerely hope that the knowledge and experience gained in this context will also be utilized for Nepal's future. The Nepali in Japan who came to assist the victims of the Noto Peninsula earthquake at the beginning of this year said that it was just a way of saying thanks for the Japanese support after the Gorkha earthquake in 2015. We have a bilateral relationship where we find mutual benefit in helping each other.

This year, 2024, marks the 70th anniversary of Japan's entry into the Colombo Plan in 1954, when it stepped from being a defeated country to a country extending assistance. The year 2026 will mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Nepal. Towards this new height, I would like to continue my efforts to promote development cooperation and personnel exchanges including visits by dignitaries.

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In this context, I cannot help but hope that the people of Nepal will make good use of Japan's assistance. I often receive words of gratitude from Nepali people that as a long-standing friend, Japan supports Nepal from disinterested motives. I, however, respond each time that Japan is interested in Nepal, Japan’s interest is peace, stability, and development of Nepal. I also tell them that Japan's assistance, which is funded by the blood taxes of the Japanese people, is not charity but an investment in Nepal's bright future.

You may have noticed that Japanese ODA is marked 'From the People of Japan'. That is my work. When I was a young administrative officer in the Economic Cooperation Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), I came up with this idea to convey the fact that it is the goodwill of the Japanese people that supports Japan's ODA.

The cooperation of the Nepali federal and regional governments and communities is essential to ensure that the assistance provided by Japan for the sake of Nepal is not wasted. I would like to ask for the cooperation of all concerned.

KIKUTA Yutaka is the Ambassador of Japan to Nepal

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