The Kathmandu valley has been in the grip of a gasoline shortage for the past few days with the number of petrol pumps hanging “No petrol” signs on the increase.
Petrol and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), in particular, have run short despite a continuing drop in oil prices globally.
The state-owned monopoly Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) maintains that there are adequate fuel supplies, even though most of the gas stations in the valley were closed on Sunday. Winding queues of motorists could be seen in front of the few petrol pumps that were open.
The Nepal Petroleum Dealers’ National Association said that shortages had affected mainly Bagmati, Janakpur, Narayani, Gandaki, Dhaulagiri and Rapti zones. The association of fuel dealers blamed the scarcity on the inadequate stocks with NOC.
Reacting to the LPG paucity, the Gas Dealers Federation Nepal on Friday warned NOC that it would be forced to halt sales of cooking gas if the current shortage was not resolved urgently.
The federation has given the government a 10-day ultimatum to end the scarcity that has spread across the country.
Speaking at a programme on Sunday, the association’s President Lilendra Prasad Pradhan said the shortage had been intensifying as NOC had paid no attention to keeping adequate stocks. “Even though the government-owned enterprise has been earning profits, it is surprising that it has not been maintaining adequate stocks at its depots,” he added.
NOC’s Amlekhgunj depot has a storage capacity of 1,960 kilolitres of petrol and 16,100 kilolitres of diesel. Similarly, its Thankot depot can hold 2,630 kilolitres of petrol and 8,400 kilolitres of diesel. “However, there are very limited stocks of these products at the depots,” he said.
According to the association, NOC has been using only 15 percent of its storage capacity at the Thankot depot. Similarly, there is almost no stock of petroleum at its depot in Pokhara, said the association. “The stocks in other depots account for only 20 percent of their capacity,” said Pradhan.
However, NOC has refuted the charges levelled at it by the petroleum dealers. NOC Spokesperson Mukunda Ghimire said that there had been shortages because of the two public holidays last week.
“A total of 600 kilolitres of petrol and a similar quantity of diesel were issued from the Thankot depot on Sunday,” said Ghimire. He claimed that supplies would return to normal from Monday.
Petroleum dealers criticized NOC for maintaining small stocks in the valley which accounts for 75 percent of its sales and giving rise to shortages.
Pradhan said that he suspected NOC of distributing gasoline directly from the incoming tankers instead of storing it in its depots to avoid paying loading and unloading charges. “NOC saves Rs 0.47 per litre of petrol and Rs 0.44 per litre of diesel if it sells the products directly.”
The dealers said that NOC had also been issuing less than the required quantity of petroleum products in the Kathmandu valley. According to them, the valley’s daily gasoline requirement stands at 400 kilolitres of petrol and 700 kilolitres of diesel.
“However, NOC has been releasing 350 kilolitres of petrol and 600-650 kilolitres of diesel daily,” said Bishwo Prasad Aryal, general secretary of the association.