Kathmandu, September 17
Construction of electric railway has been identified more feasible than the construction of the projected fast-track road to link Kathmandu with the Tarai.The government has already initiated the process to construct a four-lane fast track road linking Kathmandu with Birgunj.
However, experts have said it (fast track road) would not help the country to get rid of energy dependency and environmental pollution, besides being highly expensive. Clean Energy Nepal, Clean Air Network Nepal, Nepal Tourism Board and Small Hydropower Promotion Project of GTZ organized an interaction program at Kathmandu on sep 16, 2008 to discuss on feasibility and prospect for electric railways in Nepal.
In contrary, construction of an electric railway would be lot cheaper, environmentally friendly and would decrease the use of fossil fuel and dependency on other countries for fuel.
Birendra Keshari Pokharel, former chief engineer, Department of Roads, said that for sustainable development, electric railway would be a very good option to get rid of the prevailing energy crisis, as it would help to harness the hydropower potential of the country and achieve self sufficiency in energy.
Total length of both the fast-track road and the proposed railway line is approximately 137 km, but the fast track road would be four-lane and the railway would consist only two tracks, said Pokharel. The estimated cost for the road is Rs 6,400 crore excluding the costs of vehicles, workshops, warehouses, stations, and garages, according to Pokharel. But the construction of the railway would cost only around Rs 1,846 crore including the expenses for stations, godowns, carriages and so on.
Pokharel said the road would become insufficient after 30 years and involve very high maintenance costs, but the railway would last for nearly 100 years with maintenance cost half of the roadway.
It would take 2 hours 45 minutes to reach Birgunj via the road, but would take only 1 hour 45 minutes to cover the distance via the railway, Pokharel said. He added the railway would have additional comforts and safety. "The railway would facilitate trade and economy better than the road."
When petroleum crisis has been looming large, transportation policy should not encourage the use of fossil fuel, said Ratna Sansar Shrestha, a water resource analyst.
Every month around 10,000 kilolittres of fuel is used by vehicles moving from Kathmandu to Birgunj and vice-versa. "If electric train is operated on the route, we would be able to save 120,000 kl of fuel every year, Shrestha said.
It is high time we thought of preventing environmental deterioration due to fossil fuel-operated vehicles, said Bhusan Tuladhar, executive director, Environment and Public Health Organisation.
He said every day over 3,500 vehicles ply on Kathmandu-Hetauda- Birgunj route and almost 65 per cent of them are diesel-run trucks and buses that emit carcinogenic and hazardous gases.
"If electric railway comes into operation, it would reduce five to 29 million tonnes of carbon emission in over 21 years that would help us earn dollars through carbon trade," Tuladhar added. He said the railway could replace 50 per cent of the existing vehicles and reduce the rise in number of vehicles by six per cent.