China’s road to Kathmandu

Folks doubtful of a recent Chinese proposal to dig a high-speed rail tunnel under Nepal’s Mt. Everest should consider that other big projects by Beijing are on tap in the Himalayan mountain nation.

Reuters said Monday that Nepal’s investment board has cleared China’s Three Gorges International Corp to construct a long-delayed $1.6 billion new hydropower project. It will be Nepal’s single biggest foreign investment.

The go-ahead is being eyed warily by New Delhi, which is reportedly unhappy that China is considering building the Mt. Everest tunnel in a country that’s part of India’s traditional sphere of influence. Beijing’s expanding role in Nepal also coincides with its launch of an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and an ambitious Central Asia-to-Europe Silk Road project.

The Chinese-built dam will be erected on the West Seti river in northwest Nepal and is slated for completion by 2021-22. It’s expected to generate 750 megawatts (MW) of power when complete, board official Ghanashyam Ojha told Reuters.

Both China and India are vying to tap Nepal’s vast river system as a source of hydroelectric power. India, in particular, is eager to get electricity from Nepal to feed its growing economy. Two big Indian hydropower projects were approved in Nepal last year and the two countries have inked a power-sharing pact. China, meanwhile, is upgrading roads and other infrastructure throughout Nepal.

Three Gorges is China’s biggest hydropower company and oversees the world’s largest hydroelectric plant on the Yangtze River.

China Daily quoted a senior Chinese engineer on Thursday as saying China plans to build a 540-kilometre strategic high-speed rail link between Tibet and Nepal that passes through a tunnel under Mt. Everest.



Categories: Asia Unhedged

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