border review | 1 December 2011

New Bridges

Up to now, there is only one motorable through road that links the PRC with Nepal – the “Friendship Bridge” over the Sindupalchok between Khasa and Dram joins Nepal’s and Tibet’s road systems and makes the friendship highway the most important formal trading route across the Sino-Nepalese border. The other major roads that lead form Tibet into Nepal – one through Mustang, one from Kyirong through Rasuwaghadi, and one from Purang through Hilsa – lack motorable bridges. However, according to The Kathmandu Post, this situation is about to change:

Nepal and China have agreed to construct another “friendship bridge” in Rasuwagadhi on the Nepal-China border. […] “The 100-meter long bridge will be constructed over the Trishuli river with Rs 100 million Chinese contribution,” Tulsi Prasad Sitaula, secretary at Ministry of Physical Planning and Works, told the Post. The Chinese have laid the foundation of the structure on their side, he said.

Nepal will construct a bridge in Hilsa, Humla district, a busy entry point on the Nepal-China border, on its own. This bridge, however, will not be a friendship one as both its pillars are located on the Nepal side.

“I laid the foundation of the bridge in Hilsa, which is 55 meters long and will cost Rs 60 million, three months ago,” said Sitaula. This bridge will link Nepal with a blacktopped highway in Tibet, he added.

I wonder whether these bridges will be used to “formalise” the bustling and highly informal trade that along these trade routes. If so, my guess would be that the informal trade will simply shift to other, more remote trade routes, such as the one from Manasarowas across the Lalung to Limi in north western Nepal or the already very important border crossing at Kimathanka in the upper Arun valley.