Nepal is keen on exploring new waterways for "cleaner and greener" bilateral trade with India, and has proposed Gandak river route for cargo transport, a top official of Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) said here Friday.
Under the current arrangement between the two countries, cargo reaches Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Kalughat in Bengal or Sahebgunj in Jharkhand via National Waterways-1 on Ganga-Bhagirathi-Hooghly river system, before being transported to the Nepal border on road, covering over 170km.
"The Nepal government had asked India whether river Gandak can be explored for a waterway, which would naturally connect with Ganga," Inland Waterways Authority of India Chairman Pravir Pandey said, on the sidelines of a summit organised here by the Indian Chamber of Commerce.
The IWAI chairman also said that technical studies were necessary to determine if the Gandak route was feasible for the transport of cargo.
"We have responded (to Nepal) that it needs technical studies (to find out) whether ships of larger size can move through Gandak to Nepal," he said.
If the proposal is approved, cargo from Haldia and Kolkata docks can directly reach Nepal on waterways, offering immense cost advantage and convenience to the stakeholders.
The Gandak river, one of the main tributaries of the mighty Ganga, is known as Narayani in Nepal. The tributary originates from Mustang in Nepal and joins Ganga at Hazipur (near Patna).
Noting that the Ministry of Commerce has decided to amend a clause of India-Nepal trade treaty to include waterway as a mode of transport, along with road and rail, Pandey said the modification would be carried out shortly.
The IWAI chairman also said both the countries have agreed on three waterways for trade to the Himalayan country -- Kolkata-Sahebganj waterway and then to Nepal's Biratnagar by road, Kolkata-Kalughat near Patna via NW-1 and then to Birgunj, and Kolkata-Varanasi on NW-1 and then to either Nepalganj or Mahendra Nagar.
The IWAI had been installing multi-modal terminals at Haldia, Sahengunj and Kalughat for cargo handling through waterways on NW-1.