PUSH-BACK: Fuel Shortage hitting Nepal

The April 2015 earthquake was one of the most destructive in Nepal’s History. It killed more than 8,000 people and displaced about 450,000. Massive landslides, centuries-old monuments crumbled in Kathmandu valley and avalanches swept through the Himalayas, including an avalanche at mt. Everest base camp that killed at least 20 mountaineers and native.

The devastation was extensive, but Nepal’s infrastructure was not irreparably damaged. After six months of devastating earthquake Nepal started to rebuilt itself: the streets in affected districts like Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and lalitpur are clear of rubble and its monuments are being rebuilt. Again the streets are started to clog with cars, motorcycles, trucks and rickshaws as before. One of my foreigner friend wrote to me “WoW! nice to read that Thamel is fine and the earthquakes’ impacts are practically invisible in that place. The popular Everest beer is served again.” Even the highways connecting capital city with other districts were also clear and appeared undamaged. Roadside cafes are open for business, serving buffets to dal bhat and tarkari. Nepal is returning to normal. Nepal’s tourism industry is back up and running.

And, adding to Nepal’s woes, recent protests over Nepal’s new constitution got hyped. The new constitution got adopted in 20th September, 2015. This spurred neighboring India to block transport trucks from entering Nepal, creating a nationwide fuel shortage that threatens to derail Nepal’s earthquake recovery.

Nepal gets 60 percent of all imports and nearly all of its oil from India. Nepal is a landlocked country and Nepal suffered badly after the blockage. India cut its flow of transport trucks into Nepal after protests against Nepal’s new constitution erupted in villages along Nepal’s southern boarder with India at the end of September. More than 40 people died in related violence.

The protesters claimed Nepal’s new constitution left Nepal’s southern border territories, which have close ethnic ties to India, under-represented in Nepal’s parliament and showed preference to northern highland territories.

India has been denying blockage of fuel supplies to Nepal, claiming protesters in southern Nepal were blocking the shipments. The Indian government issued a statement expressing concern over the protests and ensuring violence, as well as for the safety of its truck drivers who transport goods into Nepal. Nepal officials claim, however, that India has limited its fuel shipments to punish Nepal for its new constitution. Kathmandu has labeled India’s fuel blockade an infringement in Nepal’s internal affairs.

Evidence of the fuel shortage in Nepal is currently more ubiquitous than that of Earthquake damage.

Domestic airlines have been halted with increased in its ticket fared with double, Some airlines have canceled flights to Kathmandu since the fuel shortage began, while other have had to route flights to refuel outside Nepal. Daily transportation services have come to zero mobility, and taxi drivers no longer accept only one fare, cramming as many customers as possible into their cabs to minimize trips back and forth. Gas lines in Kathmandu valley stretch for kilometers. The local buses are over crowded with passengers sitting in luggage racks. Restaurants are now offering limited menus, and the remaining items are typically more expensive than usual.

Many Nepalese citizens have turned to burning wood to cook since there is not enough fuel for gas stoves and ovens.

Kathmandu has implemented fuel-rationing measures, limiting the fuel available to private vehicles. But many in Nepal claim rationing has created a fuel black market.

Consequently, prices on almost everything, from beer to eggs, have increased.

The Indian blockade has also ignited anti-Indian sentiment across Nepal. Protesters in Kathmandu rallying against the blockade chanted anti-Indian slogans, and buildings are spray painted with the graffiti “#backoffindia”. This reminds us the incident of Indian media’s interference during earthquake in Nepal.

The fuel shortage has hampered ongoing relief efforts to many of Nepal’s remote mountain villages, which were the hardest hit by the earthquake.

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