Fuel shortage unlikely to ease till supply from Raxaul normalises

Kathmandu, January 14

Although the number of vehicles entering Nepal from India from all border points, except for Birgunj, has gone up since mid-December, the country continues to witness acute shortage of fuel. This is because Raxaul Depot of Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) — the nearest depot from Nepal — used to supply about 60 per cent of the fuel consumed in the country via Birgunj in normal times.

“It seems unlikely that the supply of fuel will normalise until the Raxaul Depot starts supplying fuel like in the normal times,” said Deepak Baral, acting director of Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC).

However, the supply from Raxaul has been nil since the start of border blockade in the fourth week of

September. Moreover, even as the supply from other depots of IOC has gone up compared to the situation before mid-December, the quantity is not much higher than in the

normal times. Hence, the country continues to reel under severe shortage of petroleum products.

As the supply from remaining depots became normal, NOC had requested IOC — its sole supplier — to increase load from other depots. Subsequently, IOC had also pledged to provide higher quantity of fuel to substitute the supply from Raxaul till the tensions in Birgunj end. IOC also provides fuel from Barauni, Siliguri, Betalpur, Gonda and Banthara.

Expecting IOC to make good on its pledge to supply increased quantity of fuel, NOC’s Amlekhgunj Depot had sent more tankers. But the loading from the Barauni Depot has not gone up significantly, as per Bhanubhakta Dhakal, chief of Amlekhgunj Depot. “We’ve been requesting Barauni Depot to dispatch load of around 2,500 kilolitres per day, but daily loading from Barauni stands at around 1,100 kl to 1,500 kl only.”

Similarly, even though the supply from other depots has gone up, it has not been ramped up enough to fully make up for the supply from Raxaul Depot, say the depot chiefs. For instance, Siliguri Depot has increased additional supply of 50 kl aviation turbine fuel (ATF) each day.

Other depots of IOC, except Raxaul, were established to cater to the local demand. The Raxaul Depot, on the other hand, was established eyeing the supply to Nepal and import from Raxaul is more cost-effective (in terms of transportation cost).

In the recent talks between NOC and IOC, the latter promised to give ATF from Raxaul. Currently, there are around 63 fuel tankers stuck at Raxaul Depot since long. Raxaul Depot had provided load to two tankers on Wednesday and NOC is seeking route permit from the Economic Counselor Office of India in Birgunj to bring ATF tankers via Jogbani and send tankers using the same route.

However, IOC still seems reluctant to provide petrol and diesel from its Raxaul Depot. In the letter sent to NOC a few days back, IOC has clearly mentioned that only ATF will be provided from its Raxaul Depot, without providing details.

Due to short-supply, import bill of petroleum products in first five months of this fiscal dropped by 64.7 per cent to Rs 17.84 billion as compared to Rs 50.52 billion in the corresponding period of previous fiscal.

Govt directed to re-route gas bullets

KATHMANDU: The Commerce and Consumer Welfare Committee of the Legislature-Parliament has directed the government to bring in gas bullets that are stuck at the Raxaul border checkpoint due to the ongoing unrest in the Tarai and border blockade by re-routing them. The committee, at its meeting on Thursday, instructed the government to arrange for the surcharges needed for re-routing managed by Nepal Oil Corporation and also to make the necessary policy and practical arrangements for the same. Committee President Bhisma Raj Angdembe said the meeting decided to direct the government to take necessary steps towards curbing black-marketing and fair distribution of the gas brought in from the border checkpoints other than Raxaul. — RSS