Tatopani Customs Office has started to send containers of imported goods stuck at the border point to Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) for clearance. As per the customs office, it sealed 83 containers on Wednesday and sent them to TIA.
There are more than 70 containers of imported goods stranded at the customs yard at Tatopani and on Araniko Highway by earthquake-triggered landslides. Tatopani Customs Chief Divya Raj Pokharel said they would seal the containers in the presence of the Nepal Police and the Armed Police Force.
A Chinese crew has been working to clear landslide debris from the highway. The road had been cleared by the Roads Department with assistance from China following the April 25 earthquake, but it was further damaged by fresh tremors on May 12.
The Nayapool-Liping stretch is the riskiest part of the highway for vehicular traffic. Due to this reason, both the traders and customs officials are reluctant to travel to the Tatopani Customs Office to clear the imported goods. Pokharel said they would try to move all the stranded container trucks simultaneously on Wednesday.
Bishnu Bahadur Khatri, president of the Nepal Trans-Himalaya Border Commerce Association, said that 500 containers were stranded in Khasa and Tatopani. According to him, travelling to the customs point still poses a high risk due to continuous landslides. “As it is a matter of their lives, traders are unwilling to visit the customs point to clear their goods,” Khatri said.
The Tatopani Customs Office which used to collect over Rs15 million in revenues daily looks deserted at present. Due to fears of further landslides, not only outsiders but also most local traders are reported to have moved out from the area. Even the police post at the customs point has been relocated following the earthquake.
Meanwhile, traders have complained that they have been incurring heavy losses due to the blockage on Araniko Highway. During the three weeks since the earthquake on April 25, movement of trade goods through Tatopani Customs, which is one of the important commercial gateways, has come to a complete halt. A number of containers loaded with imported goods have been buried by the landslides while many others have been damaged by the debris. Much of the goods in the stranded containers have also been stolen.
Rajendra Kumar Shrestha, member of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said a number of traders were likely to go bankrupt in the aftermath of the earthquake. He claimed that more than 1,200 loaded containers are at risk.
More than 50 vehicles were reported to be buried in the landslides following the earthquake. Container trucks at Liping, Duskilo, Marmin and Kodari suffered the greatest damage.
Kamal Kumar Shrestha, president of the Sindhupalchok Chamber, said transport entrepreneurs apart from traders had been hit hard by the disaster.