Saturday, September 1, 2007

South Asian Transport Ministers Plan Rail Corridor To Link South Asia

South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member nations will explore the possibility of setting up a rail corridor between Chennai and Colombo, which will connect Nepal, Bangladesh and the northeastern states of India.

The suggestion was mooted at the first meeting of the transport ministers of SAARC nations held in New Delhi on Friday. The ministers have recommended nine pilot regional and sub-regional projects to connect South Asia by road, railway, water and air corridors.

"Members states would be examining the viability and desirability of these projects for reporting to the third meeting of the inter-governmental group on transport scheduled to be held in Sri Lanka in the second of week of March next year," an official press statement said in India's capital, issued after the meeting.

The proposed projects are in line with the 14th SAARC Summit's announcement to interlink the 1.5 billion people living in South Asia. Of the nine projects, India has proposed four including two projects that connect Nepal with India and Bangladesh, while Sri Lanka and Bhutan have proposed three and two projects each.

The other two projects proposed by India include Agartala-Akhaura-Chittagong road link and Male-New Delhi and New Delhi-Islamabad aerial corridor.

The member states will conduct the feasibility study of the proposed pilot projects and submit their reports during the inter-governmental groups meeting slated for the second week of March 2008, the statement adds.

The meeting deliberated on the report of the SAARC Regional Multimodal Transport Study (SRMTS) prepared and funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and recommended extending the study to include Afghanistan.

The participating ministers from Bhutan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Maldives, Nepal, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, also elected India's Shipping, Road Transport and Highways Minister T R Baalu as the chairperson of the SAARC Transport Ministers meeting.

Source: AHN

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