Nepal looks for alternate fuel supplies as crisis deepens

KATHMANDU:Nepal today floated a global tender seeking bids for the supply of fuel to the landlocked country as the crisis surrounding petroleum products deepened due to continued blockade of a key border trade point with India amid protests over the new Constitution.

Nepal looks for alternate fuel supplies as crisis deepens

Motorists line up outside a gas station as fuel rations are implemented, in Kathmandu on October 8, 2015.

amansharma@tribunemail.com

Kathmandu, October 8

Nepal today floated a global tender seeking bids for the supply of fuel to the landlocked country as the crisis surrounding petroleum products deepened due to continued blockade of a key border trade point with India amid protests over the new Constitution.

Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) has asked the interested firms to fill the tender for the distribution of fuel within a three day deadline, according to sources at the NOC, the sole government body authorised to import oil from India.

The NOC floated the tender to import petroleum products from any country through any medium as life is hit hard in Nepal due to acute fuel shortage following the blockade by Madhesi parties.

"The state oil monopoly has been given the responsibility to import aviation fuel, petroleum, diesel, kerosene and Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) from any country through any means by the Cabinet," according to officials.

Suppliers will have to provide 200 kilolitres of diesel, 100 kilolitres of petrol, 200 kilolitres each of aviation fuel and kerosene, and 100 metric tonne of LPG on a daily basis by air or land route to meet  the country's demand for 15 days.

According to NOC's acting Director Mukunda Ghimire, a global tender has been called to ease the distribution of petroleum products ahead of festival season.

As fuel crisis deepens, the government is also considering airlifting petroleum products ahead of Hindu festivals like Vijaya Dashami and Deepawali.

According to media reports, NOC has suggested the government of constructing a petroleum storage plant in the Nepal-China border area.

Nepal is looking for possibilities of bringing oil, LPG and other essential goods from China and the recently opened Tatopani border entry point along the Araniko Highway will be used for the purpose.

The Commerce Ministry had written to 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 Kathmandu Post reported.

With IOC -- the sole supplier of petroleum products to Nepal for over 40 years -- denying adequate fuel supply due to "Indian government's unofficial blockade", the government has been forced to look for alternatives, the paper said.

Only a few tankers carrying fuel and cooking gas have entered Nepal from India over the past two couple of weeks as the Madhesi groups have staged almost daily protests near the main border points between the countries.

But in the past 24 hours around 100 tankers entered Nepal from India. Customs offices in Biratnagar, Kakarbhitta and Dhangadhi said 91 oil tankers and 12 gas bullets entered the country yesterday, media reports said.

Although talks are being held between the government representatives and the agitating Madhesi Front, so far there has been little progress in the negotiations.

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. — PTI

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