Valley gripped by artificial fuel shortage

Kathmandu, April 20

If the government’s data is to be believed, the supply of petroleum products — especially, petrol and diesel — in the market is normal. However, consumers have been deprived from availing petrol and diesel in a majority of fuel stations across Kathmandu Valley since last few days. While most pumps are closed, a few are supplying only diesel and have posted ‘No Petrol’ notices.

As Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) claims it is providing normal supply of petrol (600 kilolitres) and diesel (700 kilolitres) in the Valley every day, it seems the recent shortage is artificial in nature.

“Fuel supply from Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) is normal and so is our supply to the market. However, fuel demand in the Valley has gone up drastically in the last three to four days,” said Sitaram Pokharel, spokesperson for NOC, explaining the ‘shortage’.

NOC has said that the increase in demand for petroleum products in the Valley is due to the fear among consumers of a possible shortage after the Madhesi parties recently announced their poll-centric protest activities. “Consumer sentiment has been affected as different parties have announced their protest programmes recently and the demand has gone up significantly,” Pokharel said, adding that the two-day public holiday this week also affected regular supply of petroleum products to some extent as NOC does not supply fuel on public holidays.

Meanwhile, NOC is preparing to supply additional fuel in the Valley from its Bhairahawa and Nepalgunj depots to address the crunch. NOC’s Thankot-based depot supplies fuel to Kathmandu Valley. “The increasing demand in the Valley will be addressed within a few days,” he added.

However, petroleum dealers have said that it is the inability of NOC to supply fuel in the market that has forced petroleum dealers to limit supply to consumers. “As NOC did not supply petroleum products for two consecutive days this week due to public holidays, consumers started panicking and buying more fuel than they needed. Due to this, the demand has soared,” said Lilendra Pradhan, president of Nepal Petroleum Dealers Association. “Moreover, NOC’s failure to increase the supply after the holidays also made the situation worse.”

Pradhan added that dealers are closing their fuel stations after clearing the stock of fuel supplied to them by NOC. He mentioned that the government should supply petroleum products on public holidays too and increase fuel storage capacity across the country as soon as possible to ensure smooth supply of petroleum products in the market.

Consumers, however, believe that both NOC and petroleum dealers are involved in creating artificial fuel shortage. “While NOC has no sense of responsibility towards consumers, dealers often try to take benefit of different situations,” said Kiran Khadka, a resident of Kaalopul, who was queuing at a fuel station today.