Govt mulls over importing fuel from China

Kathmandu, October 5

The Ministry of Commerce and Supplies (MoCS) today wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs  (MoFA) seeking options of importing fuel from China. The move is aimed at addressing, or at least alleviating, the situation of fuel shortage worsening across the country due to continuous obstruction in movement of vehicles from India to Nepal since the last two weeks.

The letter sent to the MoFA has sought early resumption of vehicular movement from the two trade routes — Jilong (Rasuwagadi) and Lhasa (Tatopani) — and importing petroleum products from China, a high-level official at MoCS, on the condition of anonymity, told The Himalayan Times.

Both routes were damaged in the devastating April 25 earthquake and subsequent aftershocks. The damaged portion on Nepal side has been repaired and ready for vehicular movement. However, Chinese side has yet to finish the repair work.

The government decided to write to the Chinese government after facing continuous obstruction in the movement of vehicles from the Indian side, owing to security concerns raised by Indian freight companies and transporters in ferrying goods to Nepal.

One of the reasons for the country reeling under such acute shortage of petroleum products is lack of proper storage facility to cater to the demand for longer period. Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) — the state-owned petroleum supply monopoly — has said its existing fuel stock is enough to meet the demand for another 10 days only and that too just for public and government vehicles and emergency service providers.

Since Thursday, NOC has barred private vehicles from purchasing fuel and said it would be able to extend refuelling facility to private vehicles only after supply normalises.

Despite protests and difficulties at the bordering points, vehicular movement had not been obstructed before the new constitution was promulgated. Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), which has been in business relation with NOC since last four decades, has started dispatching only 10 per cent of the load compared to normal times before September 20. Even the dispatched vehicles are stranded at the border points.

The deteriorating situation is also evident by the fact that NOC has also barred international airlines, chartered flights and mountain flights from refuelling at Tribhuvan International Airport. Moreover, NOC has said it would be able to refuel domestic flights only for next three weeks.

NOC had also recently written to IOC reminding the spirit of NOC-IOC agreement signed on April 27, 2012, which mentions about ‘ensuring undisrupted supply’. The agreement has validity until 2017.

“IOC’s unilateral decision to block supply and its non-cooperation in supplying petroleum products to our country has caused hardship to all Nepali consumers, the cost of which is beyond imagination,” NOC said in its letter to IOC. It has also sought compensation from IOC, as NOC has been suffering heavy financial and brand image losses in the Nepali market without any contractual default with IOC.