Energy security is a must for national security. But powers that be in Nepal never realized this important truth, it appears.
That’s why even after facing three Indian blockades – in the 1970s, 1990s and 2015 — in a span of 45 years, successive generations of Nepalese leaders have failed to learn any kind of lessons from the dilemma. Neither have they bothered to seek alternative supply lines for petroleum products for an energy-deficit economy like Nepal nor have they decreased oil dependency by harnessing water resources and other alternative energy sources.
Our southern neighbour enforces a stifling blockade whenever it cannot have its ways in Nepal. During each blockade, we talk of exploring alternative supply lines up North, harnessing hydropower potential and alternative energy sources, only to forget the lessons learnt when the blockade ends.
Caught in a stifling blockade right now, the entire nation has been talking about bringing oil from the North for the sake of energy security and end the overdependence on India for fuel and other essentials.
In this context, we asked experts if it is possible as well as feasible to import petroleum products from China via Kerung and Rasuwagadhi border points.
Here’s their take:
Somnath Sapkota, chief of the Petroleum Exploration Project (PEP), Department of Mines and Geology:
In the Rasuwagadhi region, the terrain is quite difficult. There’s a serious risk of landslides. Apart from that, the condition of the road needs to be improved if we are to bring oil from China. Bringing oil from the northern point (Kerung) is a bit difficult, given the terrain.
Pramod Simkhada, geologist, PEP: Freezing conditions up north make it hard to bring petroleum products to Nepal during 3-4 months of the winter. The terrain is difficult, but then bringing oil from higher elevation (Kerung is located 1820 m above the sea level) to Syafrubesi (1490 m ASL) and then to Betravati (760 m ASL) via a pipeline may not be a difficult undertaking (especially during the summer).
While bringing oil from Raxaul (80 m ASL) to Amlekhgunj (150 m ASL), pumping is a must. As elevation continues to decrease from Kerung to Betravati, there will be no need of pumping arrangements to bring oil to Nepal.
China has already constructed an oil pipeline up to Lhasa and plans to extend it up to Sigatse. It is possible to construct a Sigatse-Kerung-Betravati pipeline.
Kerung is 14 km from Syafrubesi, Syafrubesi 29 km from Betravati and Betravati is 80 km from Kathmandu. A roughly 45-km pipeline has to be constructed to bring petroleum products to Betravati from Kerung. From there on, we can transport oil to Kathmandu via
A long-term vision and political will is required to bring oil from China. We need to be consistent in our effort, instead of taking oil import from China as a desperate measure. If we have the political will, we can bring oil from China. Much depends on how things move at the political level.
We are not talking of bringing all the oil we need from China. If constructed, the Sigatse-Kerung-Betravati pipeline may be able to
meet 30-40 per cent of Nepal’s demand for oil.
(Source: Asia Pacific Daily, Kathmandu issue)