Chinese BRI faces major resistance in Nepal

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New Delhi: Projects that are part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and other investments across Nepal face significant resistance from locals and informed citizens, as many believe that the promises China’s lucrative infrastructure development efforts are now harming the Himalayan kingdom. Moreover, given recent developments in Africa, where many countries have canceled their contracts for Chinese projects, politicians and policymakers argue that Nepal needs to review the BIS because, under the guise of cheap loans, the BIS may lead to a debt trap that Kathmandu cannot resist.

Rajendra Mahto, former deputy prime minister and senior Nepalese leader, told the Sunday Guardian in Kathmandu: “The BRI project is in its early stages. Before moving forward with the Belt and Road Initiative in Nepal, we need to think a lot. A wider consultation in the country, between the different stakeholders and the common population is necessary. Is the BRI useful for Nepal? How much is it useful for people? What impact will this have on our national and international relations? What impact will this have on India, the feelings of our neighbor with whom Nepal shares a 1,800 km long border? We must particularly insist that Nepalese land should not be used against anyone before deciding on the BRI project. How will the people of Nepal benefit from the BRI? If it’s not beneficial then we shouldn’t go ahead, if it’s beneficial then everything is fine. “

The recent experience of the Budhi Gandaki hydropower project, the largest hydropower project ever to be carried out in Nepal, has caused unease among the population, as around 40,000 people have been affected. The list of controversial and failing Chinese investments in Nepal is long. It is a widely accepted fact that China, as part of its BRI, is trying to revise its age-old strategy formulated by Admiral Zheng, a Chinese strategist of the 15e century. The crux of this controversial strategy was to get closer to its neighbors and find new areas with the will to establish domination over these countries in the long term.

Like the 60 other countries that joined the BRI network, in 2017 Nepal became the first country in South Asia to join it. China had pledged investments worth $ 10 billion in the first few years. But now people are realizing that all is not as good as promised when it comes to Chinese projects. A senior Nepalese Congress official who declined to be nominated said: “In 2011, China promised to build Nepal’s largest hydropower project, the Budhi Gandaki hydropower project, which was due to end in 2022, but until ‘At present, the Chinese company has not started construction. Interestingly, the company, China Gezhouba Group Corporation, won the non-tender contract in September 2018, a decision that was contested by many in Nepal, but Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s love for China was such. that he didn’t pay attention to anyone. The Nepalese government of the day persuaded the local population by promising them higher compensation and resettlement, but all those promises went into disarray. According to local media reports, most of the population is very dissatisfied with the government’s decision. Meanwhile, the project was deemed financially unsustainable, due to falling costs of other renewables.

The other aspect is that these Chinese mega projects have the potential to have a negative impact on the environment in the Himalayan country. According to a recent environmental impact assessment report, the reservoir will submerge 44 cremation grounds, 68 religious sites and 26 historical and cultural sites as well as 2,000 hectares of forest, 3.5 million individual trees in 38 plant species and 19 species of mammals, with the exception of reptiles and birds which would include 15 protected species.

Likewise, the government of Nepal signed a multibillion-dollar loan under the BRI to operate railways between China and the mountainous regions of northern Nepal. The Chinese government had also put forward a proposal to build the Kerung-Kathmandu railway and a railway line from Sagarmatha to Kathmandu through a tunnel. This has two implications. On the one hand, China has indebted Nepal by providing loans for rail services, while on the other hand, these projects will lead to environmental degradation. Investments in these two railways cannot be supported by the government of Nepal and the gross domestic product is also not able to repay such a huge loan amount. Even if these US $ 5 billion rail projects go into operation, China will benefit more than Nepal, and experts believe it is a Chinese game to extract Nepal’s mineral wealth because there is has a huge amount of minerals in the area. With the growing awareness of the trap, there are demands for a review of Chinese investments. We have to see how the new dispensation from power in Nepal reacts to this.


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