Nepali Times
Nation
What a gas




KIRAN PANDAY

We've been here before. Endless lines of stationary cars sit nose to tail for mile after mile along the roadside. Massed ranks of motorcycles, in places five deep, spill out onto the highway, their hot and weary owners looking for a shady tree to rest beneath.

Once more the Kathmandu valley is in the grip of a crippling fuel crisis. The Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) had already slashed Nepal's fuel supply because of unpaid bills, but a tanker drivers' strike that started nearly two weeks ago made things far worse.

The drivers' association wanted the reinstatement of several drivers sacked seven months ago, and blocked tankers from bringing fuel in from depots at Raxaul, Sunauli and Amlekhgunj. In the end they agreed to a deal, and the strike came to an end. But the bigger problem of unpaid bills remains.

Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) loses Rs 310 million each month on the heavily subsidised fuel, and also needs to pay Rs 250 million a month to settle past debts to Indian refineries, which now amount to Rs 4.2 billion.

As the petrol queues grow ever longer, the government continues to fidget. The Ministry of Finance turned down a Rs 2 billion loan request from NOC, leaving the corporation in a fix. It paid IOC

Rs 768 million and will now receive 2,200-2,500kl of petrol daily throughout September. But ultimately, there is no alternative to raising fuel prices. The subsidy also makes them cheaper in Nepal than India, which is why much of the kerosene is actually smuggled back into India.

Analysts have suggested increasing the price of petrol, aviation fuel and LPG while keeping diesel prices down, but there is no political will in the eight-party government to push these plans through.

The queues may shorten in the next few days, and NOC has announced boldly that its Indian counterpart will soon increase supplies further. But don't hold your breath.


DEALT A WEAK HAND:
A weary taxi driver pushes his vehicle forward in the line, unwilling to waste any more precious fuel in the slow crawl towards the Bhadrakali pump;
(MIN BAJRACHARYA)


A deck of cards comes in handy as drivers at the Pulchok petrol pump find a cool spot to pass the time while their cars mark their place in the queue;
(KIRAN PANDAY)


Opportunists find novel ways to capitalise on the fuel crisis by selling old petrol in new whisky bottles at Bhaktapur;
(NAYANTARA GURUNG KAKSHAPATI)


cars rest bumper to bumper;
(NAYANTARA GURUNG KAKSHAPATI)


And a man finds time to groom his moustache, maybe after a night spent in the company of his vehicle.
(MIN BAJRACHARYA)



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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