The government has dismissed rumours about economic blockade imposed by the Indian government on Nepal as baseless.
The Ministry of Home Affairs today confirmed that there is no obstruction in the movement of cargo containers, trucks and fuel tankers to Nepal from major Indian customs points. Talking to The Himalayan Times, Laxmi Prasad Dhakal, spokesperson for the Ministry of Home Affairs, said there was no obstruction in the movement of cargo containers, trucks and fuel tankers from Raxaul-Birgunj, Jogbani-Biratnagar, Nautanawa-Bhairahawa and Rupaidiha-Nepalgunj customs points on Nepal-India border.
However, movement of vehicles at some sub-customs points is blocked at the border points after the border was sealed by Indian security forces. “Movement of vehicles have been blocked at Mahottari and Malangawa sub-customs points after the Indian border security force sealed the border citing security-threat, as election is nearing in Bihar,” Dhakal said.
In the afternoon, Raxaul customs office and security forces there prevented Indian vehicles from entering Nepal, citing rising insecurity along the highways due to the ongoing protests in the Tarai. India’s Ministry of External Affairs had also expressed concern about the security of transporters due to prolonged political protest in the Tarai region of Nepal. However, after a meeting was held between officers of the Birgunj Customs Office and security forces and their Indian counterparts at the border, the issues had been sorted out and the movement of Indian vehicles has resumed, according to Mitra Lal Regmi, chief customs officer at Birgunj Customs Office.
“We have prioritised evacuating fuel tankers and liquefied petroleum gas bullets from the long queue of vehicles stranded at Raxaul-Birgunj border point fearing possible fuel shortage across the country,” he said, adding it is difficult to only ease transport of fuel tankers, which are stuck between trucks loaded with other commodities. Still 78 fuel tankers were dispatched for various parts of the country from the border point today, he added.
There are also concerns that the country may face acute fuel shortage due to lack of adequate storage facilities. According to Nepal Oil Corporation, import of LPG stood at only 19,000 tonnes in August, but the demand has been surging as the festive season nears. During normal times, the country consumes 21,000 tonnes of cooking gas in a month and that increases to 26,000 tonnes in winters due to power shortage. Nepal is reliant on Indian transporters to ferry cooking gas across the country.
NOC’s stock of other fuels is down as well. According to NOC spokesperson Deepak Baral, the country has 2,800 kl of petrol, which is enough to cater to the demand for only five days.
Likewise, the country’s stock of diesel and aviation turbine fuel is enough for only 10 days. The country has 16,000 kl of diesel and 33,000 kl of aviation turbine fuel in the stock.
Due to the obstruction created by the protesters in the Tarai, cargo remains stranded at the Inland Clearance Depot of Birgunj, as the customs officials, banks and customs house agents have reportedly received threats against operating ICD.
Export from the country has been almost nil for a month, as exporters are unable to transport cargo to the customs point, according to Rajan Sharma, president of the Nepal Freight Forwarders’ Association.