May 21, 2024, Tuesday
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Ropeway : an affordable technology for passenger and goods transportation in Nepal

100 Years of Ropeway in Nepal

The Nepal Weekly
July 26, 2022

By Purna N. Ranjitkar

Shree 3 Chandra Shamsher, one of the powerful Rana Prime Ministers of Nepal, in 1922 started building a 22km long cargo ropeway from Dhorsing -Chisapnai-Chandragiri hills passing into the Kathmandu Valley. It is mentioned in the relevant literatures that the construction was completed in 1927. During the period of construction another short span Ropeway system from Halchok to Lainchaur (both locations in Kathmandu) was constructed and operationalised for transporting stones. 

In 1964, the Ropeway system of Dhorsing -Chisapnai-Chandragiri was further improved and extended to 42 kilometres to Hetauda. Financial and technical assistance was provided by United State Agency for international Development(USAID).  With the introduction of the Foreign Aids to Nepal policy changed. In Fifth Five-Year Plan road construction enjoyed high priority. The donors were in impression that the roads are the back bone of the development. In its ‘Nepal Country Report’ of 1976, the World Bank came to a conclusion that construction and maintenance of roads in rugged mountainous country was too costly and other means of transport should be found. However all the past lessons have totally been forgotten for decades and road building is booming despite high cost and the damage they cause to the fragile mountain environment.

Many agencies carried out feasibility studies in the past to explore the possibilities of the different types of Ropeway in Nepal. Unfortunately they all remained like academic exercises. Two goods carrying ropeways in Bhattedanda (Lalitpur) and Barpak (Gorkha),and Mankamana Cablecar (Gorkha) were actually built. Similarly, Parbat Udhyog Banijya Sangh with the funding by ‘Kushma Balewa Yantrik Pul Company’ constructed 600m long Kushma-Balewa passenger carrying mechanised bridge Parbat district. Later, Chandragiri Cablecar (Kathmandu) and Kalinchowk Cablecar (Dolkha) have been operationalized by private sector entrepreneurs. Similarly, Annapurna Cablecar in Pokharais in operation presently.

The feasibility report of the cablecar projects showed that demand for ropeway is high in remote areas of Nepal. But Policy makers did not give serious attention. Likewise, cablecarexperts are doing their best in survey and design of a number of passenger cablecars and goods carrying ropeways but for limited clients.

Keeping in view the geography land structure of the country, Ropeway system isa viable solution for transportation of goods and passengers. A little land for towers and stations are enough for Ropeway systems. Short construction period and cheaper construction cost are other benefits. Moreover, Ropeway systems are operated by electricity so electricity generated in the country will be well utilised. Thus Ropeway systems escape road construction and save cost of fossil fuel to run the vehicles.

Nepal possesses extreme geographical conditions ranging from high hills and mountains to areas of flat land known as the Terai. Rugged terrains, unfavourable weather conditions and scattered settlements in the hilly and mountainous regions obstruct the mobility of people and the transporting of goods and services as well as hindering development efforts. Rural access is a major problem in Nepal. Settlements are scattered, with few densely populated areas. In such a harsh mountainous region the construction of roads is both expensive and time consuming. The cost of transporting construction materials by is high, and damage from landslides is common.

Ropeway system is non-polluting mode of transportation which can be constructed with easy technology which is cheap and constructed in a short time frame. Therefore ropeway technology is clime friendly, mountain friendly and tourism friendly. Moreover, its economic and can contribute to lower the use of volume of fossil fuel.

As Ropeway systems constructed in Nepal past 99 years had shown good signs for decarbonised mobility. Other cablecar and ropeway systems constructed later are successful in commercial terms, and also in technical intervention.

The country and the entire world are looking for maximum use of renewable energy for mobility.So that importance of Ropeways is raised as it serves all check lists. This can help the climate change effect reduction campaigns like 100% Renewable Energy, Net Zero Emission and so on. Moreover, Nepal is looking for the market for consumption of electricity considering use in the country is better than exporting at a low price.

Moreover, this technology if introduced cost of road construction, cost of transport vehicles, cost of fossil fuel, costs of human resources drastically. Likewise, air pollution produced by the vehicles will be fully checked and this will be advantage from the point of view of public health protection.

Ropeway systems can be a viable solution for municipal waste transportation. The system may be utilised for transport the waste generated in the Kathmandu Valley for instance, where segregation of domestic waste is just a good thought and the municipalities have to lift whatever has been dumped as waste by the residents and other waste producing entities.

Celebrating 100 years of Ropeway in Nepal

A group of experts, campaigners and media persons are collaborating to organise verities of activities to communicate ropeway technology to local leaders, provincial bodies and federal authorities.

Likewise, policy hindrances will also be brought into focus to consider to reform or rewrite so as ways for ropeway promotion could be conducive.

They opine that the authorities at different levels if understands benefits and utilities of ropeway systems, Nepal can utilise this technology for cheaper and best transportation to support rural agricultural and small industries as well. Hetuada-Kathmandu Ropeway may be considered to revive as a ‘Heritage Transportation’ which could serve goods transportation and passenger service. Thus, celebrating 100th years of Ropeway in Nepal will be an opportunity for the ropeway technology to revive and way forward for extensions.