Cri­sis goads Nepal into look­ing for so­lu­tions

The China Post - - COMMENTARY - BY SANJEEV GIRI

The fuel cri­sis cre­ated by the unof­fi­cial block­ade of Nepal by In­dia has launched a dis­course on the coun­try’s energy se­cu­rity. As Nepal is com­pletely de­pen­dent on In­dia for petroleum prod­ucts, a halt in fuel ship­ments has led to an acute short­age, forc­ing the gov­ern­ment to ra­tion ga­so­line, im­ple­ment an odd-even sys­tem for ve­hic­u­lar move­ment and stop pro­vid­ing fuel to pri­vate au­to­mo­biles al­to­gether.

In this con­text, stake­hold­ers have stressed the need to re­duce the de­pen­dence on a sin­gle sup­plier and sin­gle source of energy. They said that ef­forts should be made to im­port fuel from mul­ti­ple coun­tries, main­tain am­ple stocks and work on boost­ing sel­f­re­liance in energy by pro­mot­ing hy­dropower and ex­plor­ing for oil in the coun­try.

They also em­pha­sized the need to learn from history as Nepal has faced fre­quent block­ades by the south­ern neigh­bor for one or the other rea­son.

In 1989, In­dia, which sur­rounds Nepal on the east, west and south, had im­posed an em­bargo against Nepal that lasted one and a half years. Be­ing a land­locked coun­try, Nepal’s op­tions are lim­ited with re­gard to its fuel needs and has a hard time when its sole sup­plier turns off the sup­ply.

“There have been two block­ades by In­dia in the past 25 years. And both the times, tight­en­ing the sup­ply of energy has been used as a way of in­ten­si­fy­ing the im­pact of the block­ade,” said Khadga Ba­hadur Bisht, pres­i­dent of the In­de­pen­dent Power Pro­duc­ers As­so­ci­a­tion Nepal (Ip­pan). “The oil short­age has crip­pled life across the coun­try. This has im­parted a les­son that we should in­crease our ca­pac­ity and di­ver­sify our sources of energy sup­ply.”

Ip­pan has also pro­posed that Nepal de­crease its de­pen­dency on In­dia for petroleum prod­ucts to 60 per­cent, es­tab­lish a trad­ing re­la­tion­ship with main­land China in the pro­por­tion of 20 per­cent and bring 10 per­cent of the petroleum re­quire­ment from each of the two neigh­bor­ing coun­tries.

Ac­cord­ing to Bisht, energy is the main in­put of a mod­ern econ­omy, and energy se­cu­rity is a key com­po­nent of na­tional, eco­nomic and en­vi­ron­men­tal se­cu­rity.

There is a need to di­ver­sify energy re­sources, di­ver­sify energy pro­cure­ment, main­tain an ap­pro­pri­ate strate­gic petroleum re­serve and try to sub­sti­tute im­ported petroleum by hy­dro­elec­tric­ity, he added.

As per Ip­pan’s data, 87 per- cent of the Nepali peo­ple are de­pen­dent on tra­di­tional energy re­sources like bio­gas and fire­wood, among oth­ers, 9 per­cent of the energy re­quire­ment is ful­filled by petroleum, coal ac­counts for around 3 per­cent and al­ter­na­tive energy re­sources ac­count for 1 per­cent. One of the ma­jor strengths of the coun­try — hy­dro­elec­tric­ity — meets just 2 per­cent of its energy needs.

As of now, Nepal has petroleum stor­age points at 10 places, and they have a ca­pac­ity to store 70,000 kilo­liters of petrol, diesel, kerosene and avi­a­tion fuel.

‘We should not for­get’

Stake­hold­ers say this amount can ad­dress the coun­try’s de­mand for fuel for 17 days only. Ac­cord­ing to Ip­pan, Is­rael main­tains fuel re­serves enough for 270 days, South Korea 240 days, United States 137 days and Switzer­land 137 days.

“We should do the need­ful. We should pre­pare the coun­try in such a way that we can store petroleum for at least three months,” Bisht said. “Also, we should make sure that we do not for­get this cri­sis even af­ter it comes to an end and work hard.”

Ex­pe­dit­ing de­vel­op­ment of hy­dropower projects and so­lar power, re­plac­ing the use of LPG and reini­ti­at­ing petroleum ex­plo­ration are some of the things the coun­try needs to do.

For­mer wa­ter re­source sec­re­tary Surya Nath Upad­hyay stressed the need to trans­late plans, poli­cies and strate­gies into ac­tion. “We have a ten­dency of do­ing much on pa­per, not on the ground,” Upad­hyay said.

“When China of­fered sup­port to open road­ways on the Tatopani bor­der, Nepal said it would do it it­self. How­ever, the bor­der re­gion hasn’t been opened even five months af­ter the earth­quake. And fi­nally, when there were no other al­ter­na­tives, I hear the road has been cleared now, and that too in just five days. This is how we tend to do things. We have to change it,” Upad­hyay said.

He urged the gov­ern­ment to sort out pol­icy- level hur­dles, change the li­cens­ing regime in the hy­dropower sec­tor and in­crease co­or­di­na­tion among gov­ern­ment agen­cies to en­sure energy se­cu­rity in the days to come.

Ac­cord­ing to Energy Sec­re­tary Ra­jen­dra Kishore Ksha­tri, rec­ti­fy­ing the in­sti­tu­tional mech­a­nism is a must for de­vel­op­ing the ca­pa­bil­i­ties re­quired to in­crease the strength of the gov­ern­ment in terms of energy se­cu­rity. Ksha­tri also stressed the need to em­pha­size each and ev­ery energy pro­ject in an equal man­ner

and ad­dress pol­icy hur­dles.

In­crease In­ter­na­tional

Co­or­di­na­tion

“We have to wait for the Min­istry of For­est to give us per­mis­sion to chop some trees to de­velop in­fra­struc­ture for hy­dropower projects. This is just an ex­am­ple. There are many other sim­i­lar hur­dles.

Hence, the gov­ern­ment should have a proper vi­sion, and the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship should be able to give im­pe­tus to the bu­reau­cracy to carry out the agenda,” Ksha­tri said.

Ksha­tri added that the gov­ern­ment should fo­cus on all the pos­si­ble means of energy gen­er­a­tion and in­crease co­or­di­na­tion be­tween in­ter-gov­ern­men­tal agen­cies to get re­sults.

“When we talk about en­er­gyre­lated na­tional pride projects, the Energy Min­istry has al­most no stake in them. The Nepal Elec­tric­ity Au­thor­ity (NEA) is not a depart­ment un­der the min­istry but an au­thor­ity in it­self,” Ksha­tri said, ex­em­pli­fy­ing the is­sue that has made it dif­fi­cult for the min­istry to take con­crete steps.

Energy Sec­re­tary Ksha­tri also opined that po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence should be re­duced for the sake of the na­tional in­ter­est.

Gov­ern­ment Told to De­velop

Energy Strat­egy

The Agri­cul­ture and Wa­ter Re­sources Com­mit­tee (AWRC) of the Leg­is­la­ture-Par­lia­ment on Sun­day di­rected the Min­istry of Energy to de­velop a Na­tional Energy Se­cu­rity Strat­egy by in­cor­po­rat­ing stake­hold­ers like the Wa­ter and Energy Com­mis­sion, Nepal Elec­tric­ity Au­thor­ity, Nepal Oil Cor­po­ra­tion and Al­ter­na­tive Energy Pro­mo­tion Cen­tre, among oth­ers.

“The unof­fi­cial block­ade im­posed by In­dia has ex­posed our vul­ner­a­bil­ity. The ab­sence of al­ter­na­tives, abun­dant stor­age ca­pac­ity and in­ef­fi­cient man­age­ment has taught us a les­son.

Hence, the com­mit­tee has con­cluded that pre­par­ing a Na­tional Energy Se­cu­rity Pol­icy en­vi­sion­ing a long-term pol­icy is a must, and we need to do it at the ear­li­est pos­si­ble,” said AWRC chair­man Ga­gan Thapa.

Like­wise, the com­mit­tee has di­rected the gov­ern­ment to fo­cus on long-term energy se­cu­rity and treat it as a na­tional pri­or­ity sub­ject.

Dur­ing the meet­ing, AWRC par­lia­men­tar­i­ans had slammed the gov­ern­ment for its lack of pre­pared­ness, and said that it should im­me­di­ately find an al­ter­na­tive petroleum trad­ing part­ner be­sides main­tain­ing al­ter­na­tive plans to make sure that such a sit­u­a­tion does not arise in the fu­ture.

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