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Ports in Southern Asia


The majority of the domestic transport of goods takes place on waterways. At the same time as the river richness enables cheap transport of large quantities of goods, it makes it difficult to expand the road and rail networks. The roads maintain a low standard, but both the road and rail networks are fairly well developed. There are 2,770 km of railway. The main ports are Chittagong and Chalna. International airports are located in Dhaka and Chittagong.

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Sri Lanka

In 2016, there were 1,600 km of railway in Sri Lanka. The road network, which is to be restored according to current plans, is the densest in the southwestern part of the country. Colombo is one of Asia’s most important ports and, like the city’s airport, has been expanded in recent years.

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Communications in Pakistan are of very varied nature; While some areas can only be reached by packing lines, air traffic between the major cities is intense. Unlike the situation in India, road transport is more important than rail. However, the road network has low capacity in most places. The railway network, which was largely expanded during the colonial era, has since become partition from India and the trains are out of date. Karachi is the country’s dominant port and has recently been supplemented by a new facility, Port Quasim. In order to relieve other transport networks, in the early 1980’s a pipeline was built from the coast to the Multan oil refinery.

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The transport systems in Nepal are poorly developed, and in most places paths and human carriers are the means available. Transport with buffalo, elephants, yaks and mules is also important. There are 17,300 km of roads, a few railways and a couple of longer transport lines.

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According to statistics by COUNTRYAAH, Nepal has 47 airfields, about half of which are STOL type (short take-off and runway).


The country’s most common means of transport are still jackets, ponies and mules. It is estimated that there are 5,000 km of paved road. The most important one goes from the border town of Phuntsholing in the southwest over Paro, where an international airport is located, to the capital Thimphu.

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The country’s geographical conditions make transportation difficult and time-consuming. Extension and maintenance of the road network requires major efforts, and the smaller roads are often cut. Approximately 3,000 km of paved road connects the larger cities and reaches important border stations. The road from Kabul via the Khyber Pass to Peshawar in Pakistan is the most important link with the Indian subcontinent. The so-called Salangleden north from Kabul connects the capital with the northern parts of the country and makes contact with the countries in the north.

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Railways are completely missing. Caravan traffic is still important. Domestic flights increased in importance until the Soviet Union invasion in 1979. International airports are located in Kabul and Qandahar. The latter, however, has never been used as such, but became a military airport during the Afghan war.


India’s transport systems are relatively well-developed, but the strong economic growth of recent decades has put them under pressure and the transport sector has become a difficult bottleneck in business.

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Railways are of great importance for both passenger traffic and for the transport of heavy goods. State Indian Railways has Asia’s most extensive rail network and it is the fourth longest in the world, a total of 68,500 km. Of this, one third is electrified, while other sections have diesel operation. Every day more than 20 million people travel by train, at very low fares.

Already during the early colonial period, Britain began to build a uniform railway network on the Indian peninsula to transport military and commodities. The starting points were the three largest port cities of Mumbai (Bombay), Chennai (Madras) and Kolkata (Calcutta). Since independence, the network has been supplemented, for example, along the west coast and in northern India. An ongoing project will link Jammu at the far northwest to the national network. The railways have been extensively modernized, but maintenance has been neglected on many stretches, with outdated signal systems, poor bridges and poor sanitation solutions at stations and in trains. The budget lacks funds for expansion at the rate required by business growth. There is now a great shortage of freight wagons, and the railway is gradually losing ground to road transport.

India’s first metro line was opened in Kolkata (Calcutta) in 1995. It has gradually expanded and now has six million travelers daily. The Delhi metro is a city rail, partially underground, which opened in 2002, and completely newly opened are the first sections of the subways of Bengaluru (Bangalore) and Mumbai (Bombay). There are also commuter trains around the major cities.

Especially in the last decade, freight transport has increased very significantly on the roads. The road network is relatively well developed between the larger towns. One of the major transport projects currently is to improve the north-south and east-west links between the four largest cities Delhi, Chennai (Madras), Kolkata (Calcutta) and Mumbai (Bombay). To date, many thousands of villages have lacked road connections that worked even during the monsoon rains. A gigantic rural development program has included year-round roads to all villages by 2012. Car ownership is still very low – 10 cars per 1,000 residents in 2011 – but it is increasing rapidly, while road safety and driver training are not at all improving at the same rate. Road traffic is extremely heterogeneous as all types of traffic are usually mixed and in addition cows and other animals. The huge congestion in city traffic is one of several reasons why two-wheeled motor vehicles are many times more common than cars. The accident rate on Indian roads is considered to be among the highest in the world. In big cities, buses also play an important role, but above all, bus connections are of great importance to the rural population.

India has a long coast, while land borders are almost exclusively mountainous regions. The vast majority of goods in foreign trade are therefore shipped at sea, and the fast-growing trade places great demands on the ports. They are being modernized and expanded, but capacity is not enough to handle all goods. In addition, the efficiency is low in many cases. The largest tonnage is transported over Kandla in the state of Gujarat in the west, which is primarily an oil port, and Visakhapatnam on the east coast, which is the main port for the transportation of ore, steel products and coal. The two by far the largest container ports are Nhava Sheva (Jawaharlal Nehru Port) near Mumbai (Bombay) on the west coast and Chennai (Madras) in the southeast.

Until the 1990’s, the Indian state had a monopoly on all air services in the country. Subsequently, the businesses were opened for private enterprise. Especially in the mid-00’s and around 2010, the number of air travelers increased greatly. The growing middle class means that the market for private air travel is growing. Inbound and outbound tourists are increasing and the internationalization of the Indian business sector means many more business and study trips. But competition for travelers has intensified and operating costs and wages have risen, which has resulted in airlines having financial problems and several small, new airlines have already disappeared. The formerly dominant companies, the State Air India and Indian Airlines, merged in 2007 under the name Air India. Since then, the company has repeatedly received a great deal of help from the Indian state, but its market share is gradually declining and was 14 per cent in the summer of 2012. India’s largest airlines were then privately owned Jet Airways and the private low-cost airlines IndiGo and SpiceJet. In India, there are nearly 350 civilian airports, of which around 20 have international traffic. The biggest are Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi and Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai (Bombayi), which is the largest airport in South Asia in terms of tourist traffic.

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