This past week the border between Nepal and India has been closed causing a lot of problems and concerns here in Nepal. As a landlocked country Nepal relies heavily on India for many essential supplies, especially as the land routes to China were damaged in the earthquake. Most notably cooking gas (which comes in cylinders, not piped to houses), petrol and diesel.
Prices for everyday essentials such as fruits and vegetables are rising rapidly, something that we personally can afford temporarily, but many here don’t have any extra cash. There are huge queues for petrol or diesel – people are queuing overnight and the government has introduced vehicle restrictions so people can only use their vehicles every other day depending on their number plate. A bonus is that the roads are pretty quiet! We are aware of restaurants closing temporarily and even schools that can’t run buses, so some have closed.
|Not too many of these full at the minute|
Kathmandu airport has stopped refuelling international flights as they only have a few days’ supply of aviation fuel left. So international carriers have to carry enough fuel to get back out again. We understand that most have made arrangements to land in airports close to Nepal and refuel there before continuing onto Nepal, although one airline has already cancelled all flights to Nepal.
I even heard today that all the Indian TV channels have been taken off air within Nepal.
So why is this happening? To be honest we are not 100% sure, although this New York Times article has a good summary. India has denied enforcing a blockade, but much of the coverage here in Nepal is blaming India. India says that it is protestors down on the Terai who are not happy with the constitution blocking the boarder.
The big Hindu festival of Dashain is in two weeks’ time (Nepal’s equivalent of Christmas) when half the country travel back to their villages to see their families. Obviously at this time of year there is a lot of extra expense to buy the special food needed, many often get new clothes and now there is worry that buses won’t even be running.
This is also a big trekking season, one of Nepal’s big incomes, and if tourists can’t get in or to the trekking routes then that is another huge blow for the Nepal economy which has already suffered enough this year.
STOP PRESS: We've just read that some trucks have been allowed over the border, at least according to this article. Still, keep praying as it's only a start.