Kathmandu, February 25
Ravi Koirala, a 30-year-old cab driver, lined up for petrol in front of Sanjay Service Centre and Oil Store in Sundhara at 10:00am. However, he was still in the queue till 4:00pm, with over 80 four-wheelers and more than 200 two-wheelers waiting in line after him.
The serpentine line had snarled past the bend of the narrow street as vehicle owners waited patiently for the tanker of Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) to arrive at the fuel station that was slated to distribute 6,000 litres of petrol today.
“We have been told that the Thankot Depot of NOC has been facing difficulties in dispatching fuel tankers due to some problems in their server,” said Rajendra Karki, a staff of the fuel station. “Once the tanker arrives, it will take around 30 minutes to unload fuel and then we will start distribution.”
Ironically, Minister for Supplies Ganesh Man Pun had directed NOC yesterday to dispatch fuel tankers in the morning so that motorists and motorcyclists would not have to queue till the wee hours to refill their fuel tanks. However, the scene outside the fuel stations was evidence enough that today was no different than earlier days.
Netra Prasad Kafle, chief of Thankot Depot, said that they failed to translate the minister’s direction into action due to a problem in the server of the depot.
“However, by 4:30pm we had dispatched all the tankers,” he said.
On Wednesday, when Minister Pun along with the officials of NOC’s head office, Department of Supply Management and Consumer Protection and Nepal Bureau of Standards and Metrology had inspected the depot, the depot officials had pledged to supply fuel to the fuel stations in the first hour.
Because of NOC supplying fuel to the service stations only later in the day, fuel stations have been forced to change their business hours. For instance, Sanjay Service Centre and Oil Store in Sundhara used to operate from 7:00am to 8:30pm during normal days. However, now it starts its service later in the day and stays open late into the night till the last drop of fuel has been distributed.
Even though NOC has said it has ramped up the supply to ease the situation, cab driver Koirala complained that the waiting period to get fuel has gone up significantly since NOC started providing fuel to private vehicles from February 12.
Fuel pump owners have also accused NOC depot staff of intentionally creating problems in dispatching fuel tankers on time.
“They create hassles citing various problems,” one of the members from Nepal Petroleum Dealers National Association said. “Earlier last week, NOC’s Thankot Depot had dispatched fuel tankers very late citing problems in topping machine.”
The machine is used to monitor accuracy of quantity of fuel loaded into the tankers. The depot needs to check the quantity of fuel in tankers that arrive from India before they are dispatched to the fuel stations.
Thankot Depot Chief Kafle, meanwhile, assured that there wouldn’t be any problem in dispatching tankers from tomorrow.
Currently, NOC’s Thankot Depot has been dispatching 450,000 litres of petrol and equal quantity of diesel in Kathmandu Valley every day since the last week. Per day consumption of petrol and diesel in Kathmandu during normal times hovers at 350,000 litres and 450,000 litres, respectively.
Thankot depot chief said that it needs to supply around 700,000 litres of petrol and equal quantity of diesel per day through 114 fuel stations for two consecutive weeks in Kathmandu before the situation could be normalised.
A version of this article appears in print on February 26, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.