Fuel shortage hits development projects

KATHMANDU, June 8: Deepening petroleum crisis amidst frequent bandas in the month of May has badly affected civil construction of development projects, including national priority projects, for over a month.

Diesel and kerosene are basic fuel for carrying out construction works and transportation of materials, but the Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) has failed to ensure smooth supply of fuel to the development projects across the country, said project officials and contractors.

“That has brought construction works of majority of development projects to a grinding halt. Even the projects of national pride such as the Mid-Hills Highway, Babai Irrigation, Sikta Irrigation, Kulekhani Hydropower Project and Melamchi Drinking Water Project have been badly hit by the scarcity,” said Jaya Ram Lamichhane, president of Federation of Contractors´ Associations of Nepal (FCAN).

Saroj Man Shrestha, manager of Kathmandu-Bhaktapur Road Extension Project, said the fuel scarcity over the past six months and the recent spate of shortage and general strikes has halted black-topping of the road.

“We are struggling to manage fuel to run vehicles, let alone the fuel required for project works, especially black-topping in five sections of service tracks along the 9-km-long Tinkune-Suryabinayak road,” said Shrestha.

The government had awarded the contract for constructing the service track along the six-lane Tinkune-Suryabinayak road to Pappu Jyoti Construction. It was supposed to complete the constructions by mid-May.

However, Shrestha said around a dozen heavy equipment being used by the contractor such as asphalt plant, decanter, roller, distributor and trucks have remained idle for the past one month due to unavailability of diesel and kerosene.

“To complete the work, the project needs around 150 KL of fuel, including 100 KL of diesel,” said Shrestha. But the contractor has not received even 15 KL of diesel so far from NOC despite repeated requests.

FCAN said most of the contractors would not be able to complete their projects within the stipulated deadline. “We don´t know much about others. But the problems have prevented us from completing the project on time,” said Shrestha.

Given the situation, the project office has already urged the Ministry of Physical Planning, Works and Transport Management to extend the project deadline till mid-January 2013. And Lamichhane said this trend will rise in other projects as well.

According to FCAN, contractors carrying out construction of development projects said they need 250 KL of diesel and kerosene everyday to function smoothly, but its officials said the fuel supply to the projects has virtually remained nil in recent weeks.

May to mid-July is considered a crucial period for carrying out public constructions, but scarcity of fuel has affected almost all development projects, stated Lamichhane.

“The situation is really troubling us. Hence, we are planning to meet the prime minister and the finance minister to sort out the problems,” he added.

FCAN has also started meeting the top political leaders from various parties that are not in the government, requesting them not to announce protest programs.

In this connection, an FCAN delegation on Thursday met Nepali Congress President Sushil Koirala. Following the meeting, Lamichhane said Koirala has assured FCAN delegation that NC would not organize any strikes that would affect business activities.PRABHAKAR GHIMIRE

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