Nepal govt mulls airlifting fuel to ease crisis

Kathmandu: Nepal is mulling airlifting fuel either from Bangladesh or Malaysia and may build a petroleum storage plant near its border with China as the fuel crisis deepened due to continued blockade of land trade points with India amid protests over the new Constitution.

Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) has been tasked to prepare alternative plans for fuel import by the Commerce Ministry following the blockade, The Kathmandu Post reported.

In its proposal, the state-owned enterprise has drawn short- and long-term plans for fuel import.

The NOC has planned to import fuel either from Bangladesh or Malaysia as short term solution.

“The NOC meeting on Wednesday has considered air-lifting fuel as an option for now. However, we are yet to reach to any conclusion,” said an NOC source told the paper.

In the long term plan, the NOC has recommended for importing fuel from China and sending a technical team there for a feasibility study.

The corporation has also suggested the government of constructing a petroleum storage plant in the Nepal-China border area.

In the proposal, the NOC has sought government’s permission to import petroleum products without bidding process.

The Commerce Ministry had written to the NOC last week to work on possibility of importing petroleum products through alternative means after the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) “unilaterally started restriction on fuel supply to Nepal”, the paper said.

According to Shiva Prasad Tripathi, under secretary at the ministry, they have asked the NOC for a detailed feasibility report, including costs for petroleum products and transportation.

With IOC — the sole supplier of petroleum products to Nepal for over 40 years — denying adequate fuel supply after “Indian government’s unofficial blockade”, the government has been forced to look for alternatives, the paper said.

Miffed at IOC’s non-cooperation, the NOC has sought compensation from the Indian supplier for heavy financial losses and brand image. In a strongly-worded letter, the NOC had stated “the 40-year bond between the two companies had arrived at a crossroads”, it said.

More than 40 people have died in the agitations launched by the Madhesis – the Indian-origin inhabitants of Nepal’s Terai region bordering India – and Tharu ethnic groups in southern plains, hitting hard normal life.

They are against splitting Nepal into seven provinces.

The continued blockade of border trade points with India has halted the supply of essential goods from India.

Some people in Nepal blame India for the shortage by imposing an embargo.

India denies imposing blockade, saying truck drivers are concerned for their safety after protests in the country.

Meanwhile, around 100 tankers entered Nepal in past 24 hours.

Customs offices in Biratnagar, Kakarbhitta and Dhangadhi said 91 oil tankers and 12 gas bullets entered the country yesterday. (PTI)