Vehicular movement through Raxaul-Birgunj must to ease fuel supply

Kathmandu, October 13

People have heaved a sigh of relief, as more and more vehicles carrying petroleum products have started entering Nepali territory from Indian border points.

Rise in cross-border movement of petroleum tankers has generated hope that refilling empty tanks of vehicles and getting fuel to run generators will not be an arduous task in the coming days.

“The recent developments will ease the situation in the country,” Nepal Oil Corporation Spokesperson Dipak Baral said. “But the situation won’t return to normal, unless we get (petroleum) supplies from Raxaul (India), which is located near Birgunj.” Cross-border vehicular movement has resumed from almost every Nepal-India border point in the last three days. However, not a single vehicle has passed through the border near Birgunj, where Madhesi parties are still staging protests.

It is essential for protests to end in Birgunj because the closest Indian oil depot from Nepali border is located in Raxaul.

This depot, situated around 26 km from Amlekhgunj, was especially built to supply fuel to Nepal and caters to around 60 per cent of the country’s petroleum demand. NOC distributes around 4,000 kilolitres of fuel, including petrol, diesel, kerosene and aviation turbine fuel, per day throughout the country.

Nepal currently gets fuel supplies from five places in India — Barauni, Raxaul, Baitalpur, Gonda and Banthara.

“However, depots located at Baitalpur, Gonda and Banthara do not have huge storage capacity and can only supply fuel in the range of 300 to 700 kilolitres per day to Nepal,” an NOC official said. “On the other hand, the depot in Raxaul can easily load around 2,500 kilolitres of fuel per day.” An even bigger Indian oil depot near Nepali border is located in Barauni. But this place is quite far from many Nepali border points. For instance, the distance between Barauni and Birgunj is at least 238 km, while distance between Barauni and Biratnagar is at least 261 km. On the contrary, distance between Raxaul and Amlekhgunj (Birgunj) is only around 26 km.

This means transport cost will rise by at least nine times — considering Kathmandu-Raxaul-Kathmandu transport cost of Rs 2 per litre, or around Re 0.00364 per litre per km — if Nepal chooses to import fuel from Barauni rather than Raxaul.

“So it’s not feasible to get fuel supplies from Indian oil depots situated at places other than Raxaul,” the NOC official said.

Another option is to load fuel at Raxaul and reroute it to Nepali territory from border points other than the one near Birgunj.

But this measure will also raise transport cost because distance between Raxaul and Biratnagar, for instance, is at least 315 km, while distance between Raxaul and Bhairahawa is at least 252 km. “The distance of 252 km between Raxaul and Bhairahawa sounds nearer, but it’s quite difficult to fetch fuel loaded in Raxaul via Bhairahawa, as Raxaul falls in Bihar, whereas the Indian border point near Bhairahawa falls in Uttar Pradesh,” the NOC official said, adding, “It takes several days to get necessary permits to transport commodities from one Indian state to another.”