Friday, January 22, 2010

RE: [NNSD] My article on "fast" track

January 12, 2010
Mr Kul Chandra Gautam
Former Asst. Secretary General, UN


I have borrowed the technical and cost details of the electric train from Birendra Keshari Pokhrel and Shankar Nath Rimal. Even if both modes are to cost at the same level, a country like Nepal should opt for electrification of transport for obvious and many positive externalities that accrues to the country. Not just because capital cost of electric train is substantially lower.

Today’s papers are filled with the news of finance ministry asking NOC to reduce fossil fuel import which is well neigh impossible. But it will become possible in the medium (even short) term if we start electrifying our transportation system gradually and in phased manner. Even US government is encouraging people to go for hybrid cars by providing financial incentives. GoN can emulate the same policy to solve the problem. But MoF is more of a tax ministry than a government agency responsible for the macro economy. Reduction of tariff on electric/hybrid vehicles will result in commensurate decrease in GoN revenue stream. But the decrease will be more than offset by the positive externalities, for example, by global and local impact (for example due to decrease in things like medical expense, absenteeism, etc.) of GHG emission.

But our hydrocrats suffer from a big disconnect. On the one hand they don’t see this market in Nepal for electricity while continuing to perpetuate our dependence on fossil fuel resulting in trade deficit, balance of payment defect and even loss to NOC. But on the other hand they chase the mirage of making Nepal a rich country by exporting power.

As in many cases, in this instance too GoN cannot monopolize the “credit” for barking up the wrong tree. ADB too is fully responsible. People were looking for a viable and faster access to Tarai. Instead of conducting a comprehensive options assessment, ADB, in its wisdom, funded a project to conduct feasibility study to find out which alignment will be viable instead of which mode will really work as MRT and also be sustainable for Nepal, not only financially but also environmentally.

Unless they look beyond their collective noses, instead of being busy in self gratification like this, such simple things will continue to elude them, for the misfortune of this rich country (resource wise) populated by poor leaders (prudence wise).

I don’t think it is already too late to change. Because GoN has yet to get its act together for the so called fast track too. They have merely appropriated Rs 24 crore for this year. At this rate it will take 224 years (56 multiplied by 4 years at the rate of ¼ of a billion each year) to complete fast track road (you will recall how long did it take just to open the “track” to Jumla which has taken the form of veritable death trap to the people using it) and it (the opposite of fast pace of working style) will afford plenty of time to make a correct decision.

Besides, the money spent won’t be wasted as they have merely decided to open “track” along the alignment which will be useful for electric train as service track.

I too look for an opportunity to catch up with you and chat when you are not that pressed for time.

With best regards,


Ratna Sansar Shrestha

From: Kul Gautam []
Sent: Monday, January 11, 2010 20:10
To: ratna sansar shrestha
Subject: RE: [NNSD] My article on "fast" track


thank you for articulating another bright idea.

i too had read an article by birendra keshari pokhrel comparing road vs. rail with clear conclusion in favour of railway as you have also argued. it maybe too late to change in the case of the so-called fast track road, which i understand is already in progress (?), but there are other projects in pipe-line (e.g. outer ringroad in ktm, expansion of existing ring road with additional lanes) which could probaly be stopped in favour of trams and trains.

i also get flabbergasted as to why our policy makers and donors are not more discerning about such common sense, environment-friendly, economic alternatives - e.g. lower taxes for electric cars vs. gas guzzlers, high-speed trains vs. smoke-belching trucks in meandering roads. i know, it sounds outlandish to think about electric trains when we have long-hours of load shedding, but if we think in a little long-term perspective all the arguments about electrically operated transort and industry is so common sense.

for us to go to kalapathhar and copenhagen to plead for saving our environment and then to turn around and go for more environment damaging roads and not even consider alternative approaches seems so foolish and insincere.

what can we do with our planning commission, finance ministry, donors to have a serious and sustained debate on this? what are the vested interests that we should be aware of.

i look forward to an opportunity to chat with you.

warm regards,
kul g
Kul Chandra Gautam

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