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Enduring partnership

2019-10-16 20:15:59日 打印
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A view of Kathmandu Photo: IC

"We hope that years after our project has been completed, local people will still acknowledge these China-assisted projects, and appreciate our earnest efforts here," Yang Zhigang, general manager of the No.1 Engineering Department of the China CAMC Engineering Co, told the Global Times.

Having been in Nepal for more than six years, Yang saw many companies from other countries, like Spain, India or Italy that have failed or quit the market. Yang and his team, along with many other Chinese companies stayed, and helped build many eye-catching projects in the Himalayan country.

"Nepal has abundant hydropower, tourism and human resources, meaning bountiful business opportunities. As its political situation stabilized in 2018, more Chinese enterprises will start to take root here," Zhu Qingjun, general secretary of the Chinese Enterprise Association in Nepal, told the Global Times.

Chinese companies in Nepal are mainly engaged in a list of sectors including capital, investment, communications, post-disaster reconstruction and aviation. Over the past decades, they have overcome many difficulties, cooperated through multiple channels, and have now become the main participants of Nepal's engineering contracting and investment market, Zhu said.

Chinese companies have become the main force of Nepal's engineering contracting market, which has realized an accumulated contractual contract amount of $5.45 billion, data from the Chinese Embassy in Nepal showed.

With the just-concluded state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to the South Asian country, Chinese companies operating in Nepal are eyeing more projects as the two countries agreed to intensify implementation of the memorandum of understanding on cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), to enhance connectivity in ports, roads, railways, aviation and communications.

"Infrastructure capability in the country is still low, and there are many potential projects here that China could help with. We'd like to help build Nepal and carry out more major infrastructure projects like the airport," Yang said.

Energy potential 

Wu Lingcheng, deputy director of the Nepal office of Yunnan Provincial Energy Investment Group Co, which is responsible for the Tamakoshi 3 Hydropower Station project in Kathmandu, is among the Chinese firms to have had long-term interests in Nepal. 

"We've paid attention to the market since 2012, with its rich hydropower resources," Wu said.

Nepal has one of the highest per capita hydropower potentials in the world. The South Asian country is estimated to have the potential to generate some 42,000 MW of hydropower, but it currently produces about 1,000 MW - less than the demand of about 1,500 MW, Reuters reported.

The weak electricity ability hinders the development of its tourism industry, which should be a key driver of its economy, Wu said.

During a trip to Kathmandu, the nation's capital, the Global Times reporter experienced frequent power outages. 

"If there is no electricity, local industries may not develop. So as an energy company, we will want to enter the market as soon as possible, and supply the electricity it needs, thus further boosting the development of its other industries," Wu said.

Tamakoshi 3 Hydropower Station project, the 200-MW hydropower project under the China-proposed BRI, has investment of around $500 million and is expected to start in early 2020. It is scheduled for completion in three and half years.

"Once completed, the plant will generate 980 million kWh electricity per year, which means our hydropower station can increase the total installed capacity of Nepal by 20 percent," Wu told the Global Times.

This hydropower project is not the first to be developed by China. In May, the Upper Trisuli 3A Hydropower Project, built by China Gezhouba Group Co, began trial operations.

The station is equipped with two vertical shaft hydro-generator sets, with a 30-MW generating capacity each, and is located in Rasuwa, a suburban community about 95 kilometers from Kathmandu. It is the largest hydropower plant in Nepal to go into operation in 2019.

If the plant runs smoothly, it will be able to meet 8 percent of the country's demand for electricity and help to reduce its dependence on India for energy, especially during the winter, local media said.

Benefiting locals

Many Chinese companies which have undertaken projects of various scales in Nepal have played a positive role in constructing the country, and also helped tap the potential of economic development, bringing job opportunities for locals.

For instance, the Pokhara Regional International Airport, the largest China-assisted project in Nepal and a major undertaking under the BRI, has created more than 400 jobs, and as the project moves forward, about 600 jobs are expected to be created, according to Yang Zhigang, manager of the project.

Once completed, the project will also bring a tourism boom to Pokhara, a famous scenic spot in the country, Yang said.

Another landmark project between the two is the Nepal-China cross-border optical fiber link, which came into commercial operation in January 2018.

The link, established by Nepal Telecom (NT) and China Telecom will provide Nepal with an alternative route to receive internet services through China from major internet hubs, including the Hong Kong Special Administration Region, according to a report from the Xinhua News Agency.

Moreover, the Nepal-China cross border optical fiber link will enable Nepal to deliver internet traffic at just 73 milliseconds to Hong Kong compared to 120 milliseconds through the submarine routes that Nepal has been using, Xinhua said.

The route could also act as a gateway for Nepal to reach Central Asia, Northeast Asia and the US.

A feasibility research on the much-anticipated cross-border China-Nepal railway will also start soon. The railway, which will connect the Chinese border town of Gyirong, in Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region and Kathmandu, will provide a fast link to the land-locked country. 

Nepalese people are grateful to China for its generous assistance to Nepal for its economic development which has spread over a host of areas ranging from agriculture and herbal medicine to education, health and industries, and more importantly, infrastructure projects, which have yielded direct benefits to the Nepalese people, Sundar Nath Bhattarai, founder president of the Association of Former Career Ambassadors of Nepal, told the Global Times.

Nepal is ever grateful to China, especially for providing assistance during the time of crisis it faced, both from external causes, like the economic blockade by its southern neighbour and also internal, like damaging floods and earthquakes, such as the devastating 2015 quake. Post-earthquake renovation works that are being undertaken by China are also held in high esteem by the Nepalese people, Bhattarai said.

Challenges ahead

The cumbersome approval procedures, strict foreign exchange controls, risk of currency devaluation and too many holidays and strikes are major problems faced by foreign companies in Nepal, industry players told the Global Times.

"The Nepali market has potential, but it's also complicated and full of challenges," Yang said.

"The Nepali government is slow in making decisions, the process is also complicated in approving some important documents, such as approval documents for important materials and customs clearance. In this regard, we must invest a lot of extra manpower and resources in that," Yang said.

Yang noted that climate conditions are also issues that Chinese companies need to consider. The rainy season in Nepal lasts from May to October, so in order not to delay progress on the project, he and his team get up at 2 am every day, start work at 3 am and then stop at 8 or 9 am when it starts raining.

In addition, Wu said as companies that come to the market have to "design everything from the scratch," the investment return period will be also long.