How Profound Is The Impact Of Fuel Crisis On Nepal?
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While the post quake reconstruction is in the full swing here in Nepal, a new crisis seems to be making the headlines these days. A purported diplomatic friction with India has curtailed the fuel supplies in Nepal which has significantly affected the daily lives and business.

Nevertheless, traveling to Nepal is not a taboo in that sense and the country is actually open for tourism and other businesses as well. It is still perfectly possible to travel to and around Nepal. Below are some of the important snippets to be updated with, if you are planning to visit Nepal as of now.

What Has Triggered The fuel Shortage?

The fuel blockade supposedly began on September 23, 2015 after Nepal announced its new constitution, which was seen by some as being unfavorable to the people of the’ Madhesh’ factions of the country. Owing to the close proximity of the Madhesh faction to the Indian border, the Madheshi people are highly influenced by the Indian way of life and stereotypes. The protests held by Madheshi groups over the dissatisfaction in the new constitution were concentrated in the Nepal-India borders, from where the daily supplies and fuels are transported to Nepal from India. This has significantly impacted fuel deliveries across the Nepali border subsequently leading to widespread shortages in the country. The hatchet between Nepal and India has now turned into a blame game; while the Nepal government has accused India of galvanizing the Madhesi people and orchestrating the blockade, the Indian government sharply denies of any unbecoming involvement. The UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon has called for supplies to urgently resume in order to avert any humanitarian crisis, but so far there has been no any remarkable breakthrough.

Nepal has appealed to its neighbors, viz. Bangladesh & China for emergency assistance. The fuel supplies from Bangladesh still need to transit through India, and deliveries from China have been held up by repairs to roads that were damaged by the earthquakes. As a result, Nepal has dwindling stockpiles of fuel, and aviation fuel in particular is being tightly rationed.

What Does This Mean For The Travelers?

Since the start of the blockade, transport of fuel into Nepal has been limited to small numbers of vehicles every few days, leading to shortages across the country. However, the Nepali people are resourceful and disrupted fuel supplies are nothing new for this land-locked Himalayan nation. So, life continues as normal and the main effect of the blockade on the ground – and indeed in the air – has been escalating prices of fuels and other essential supplies.

Most of the international air carriers are still flying to the Nepali capital, Kathmandu albeit with additional stops outside Nepal to refuel. Flights from China have been particularly affected as the airports where aircraft could potentially refuel are at high altitude and are not suitable for ordinary airliners. Predictably, the costs of extra take-offs and landings have been added to fares, which has further hiked up the air tariffs.

Nepal’s land borders with India are the focus of the fuel blockade and the transport of goods has been badly affected. However, passenger traffic across the border has always involved a change of vehicle from an Indian operator to a Nepali operator, so travelers can still cross into Nepal by land, dependent on the status of the protests that have sprung up at border crossings between the two countries.

One should have no trouble reaching the Nepali border from the Indian side, though some bus companies have reduced the frequency of services due to falling demand. On the Nepali side, buses still head daily from the border to Kathmandu and other key cities, but services are less frequent and prices are higher. This has led to a lot of overcrowding on buses. The protest campaigns have magnified especially at the main border crossing at Birganj, Sunauli-Bhairawa, Nepalganj and Dhangadhi. The border crossings at Mahendranagar (Bhimdatta) in the far west and at Kakarbhitta/Panitanki in the far east have avoided most of the unrest, and may be the easiest places to cross into Nepal, despite the long travel time to Kathmandu or Pokhara.

How Palpable Is Going Around Nepal Right Now?

Although buses are still running across the country, the government has introduced a fuel quota system, restricting fuel sales to certain vehicles on certain days. This means that fewer private and public vehicles are operational, buses are very crowded and fares have gotten considerably exorbitant. However, for the time being, the popular tourist buses linking Kathmandu, Pokhara and Sunauli/Bhairawa are still charging the reasonable fares. The Nepal government has deployed police personnel in several transport depots to make sure that the travelers are not ripped off with unreasonably high fares.

Services from Kathmandu and Pokhara to the main trekking trailheads have also been affected to some extent. Many trekking agencies and independent trekkers are grouping together to charter vehicles, rather than relying on less reliable bus services. Note that emergency helicopter services are also affected by the fuel shortages – another reason to trek carefully and slowly to avoid altitude sickness!

Domestic flights have been hit hard by the shortage of Aviation Turbine Fuel, and there are reduced services on many routes, though planes are still flying daily to Pokhara, Lukla and other key tourist hubs. The frequency of the sight-seeing flights around the Himalayas has been lessened.

What Other Shortages Prevail?

Since the supplies of cooking gas is affected, so food prices have escalated to some extent, which has subsequently impacted the price of the camp as well as tea-house treks. Since the medicaments are also on the scarce side, it is advisable that you bring all your medicines (if prescribed by the doctor) including Diamox, antibiotics for common infections, and any medication you take regularly.

Will The Situation Ever Pacify?

That is the million rupee question. The blockade could end in a day, or it could continue indefinitely. Diplomats from the nations involved, and from the United Nations, are negotiating to break the impasse, but with the central bone of contention being the Nepali constitution, this may take some time to resolve. What is certain is that the people of Nepal need tourism more than ever to get past this current crisis and rebuild for the future. But on the positive side, nothing lasts forever and nothing is so bad that the good won’t come out of it! Hope this crisis has taught the Nepalese a good lesson about being self-reliant versus parasite. Nevertheless, the situation isn’t as bad as it has been harped in the international media. Thing are improving and will keep improving; instead of consistently whining about the shortages and crisis, the Nepalese are now learning to get accustomed to the situation, looking out for best available alternatives!


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