EDITORIAL: Diversify the trade

Once the petroleum products are imported from China, Nepal will no longer depend solely on a single country for essential commodities

Finally, the government decided to hold talks with China’s National Petroleum Corporation to import petroleum products after their import from India was obstructed for over a month since the promulgation of the new constitution on September 20. Import of the petroleum products has been obstructed as the Madhes-centric parties have been picketing at the major customs points blocking the supply of fuel required for the country. Almost no supply of the petroleum products from Indian Oil Corporation, the sole supplier of fuel to Nepal, has hit hard the national economy and also created a humanitarian crisis. The government took a decision to hold talks with the Chinese side after the IOC showed reluctance in resuming smooth supply of the petroleum products even after the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa’s visit to India last week.

A Nepali delegation led by Nepali Ambassador to China Mahesh Maskey and other officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Commerce and Supplies, Ministry of Finance and Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) left for Beijing yesterday to sign a deal on importing the petroleum products from China. It is expected that the NOC and China’s National Petroleum Corporation will sign a deal in this regard. The Nepali delegation will also discuss the technicalities, including the pricing of the petroleum products and LPG, loading capacity, and loading and dispatch points. China has already announced that it would supply 1,000 metric tonnes of petrol to Nepal as a grant which will be enough for four days in the capital. The Nepali delegation will also propose to the Chinese to exempt local taxes to be levied by the Chinese provinces so that the prices of these commodities can be lowered or do not exceed the current fuel prices in the domestic market. NOC is planning to carry on vehicles the petroleum products and LPG from Kerung, China and they will enter from the Jilong-Rasuwagadhi route. The Thankot-based depot is preparing to dispatch tankers to Kerung.

Once the petroleum products are imported from China, Nepal will no longer depend solely on a single country for essential commodities. Nepal spent Rs.110 billion for the import of these strategic commodities last fiscal. The move taken by the government is in the best interest of the nation as the country has already faced a similar experience twice in the past. It is also necessary to diversify trade of such strategic commodities. Signing a deal with China on the import of fossil fuel is not enough. The government should widen the roads linking China to ensure easy movement of heavy cargo trucks throughout the year, and other infrastructure should also be built at convenient points so that the petroleum products can be distributed across the country without any hindrance. The government should not rely on other countries for the supply of these goods. It must also explore the potentials of petroleum products and natural gas within the country so that the country can become self-reliant and move towards a petroleum exporting nation in the long run.

Road deaths

Road accidents often increase during the Dashain-Tihar period. But during this Dashain the Kathmandu Valley has seen a 10 percent drop in the number of accidents whereas the number of road fatalities has gone up compared with the previous year. Given a sharp rise in the number of accidents and fatalities during the Dashain-Tihar period in the past couple of years, the authorities had moved to tighten the regulations on vehicular travel and to enforce the laws more strictly. The rising curve of road accidents had raised public concerns and some public discussions on the issue.

According to the police, the road fatalities in the Kathmandu Valley this Dashain have risen (5 killed, 72 injured, and 12 critically injured) over the same period in the previous year. The intensified campaign to book motorists and motorcyclists for drunk driving and unruly behavior has paid off. The fewer motor vehicles on the road are expected to lead to less accidents and fatalities. But the jampacked vehicles with people hanging or sitting perilously tend to cause more accidents. Adding to this is the act of carrying highly inflammable commodities — gas, petrol, and diesel — on motor vehicles. Appropriate corrective measures are, therefore, required.