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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 February 2008, 18:47 GMT
Nepal strives to get fuel supply
By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Birgunj, Nepal

The Nepalese border town of Nepalgunj
The general strike has left many towns deserted
The authorities in Nepal have for the second day running imposed a daytime curfew along a highway to enable fuel tankers to bring fuel from India.

Drivers have been refusing to deliver petrol, diesel and gas from India because they say they are under threat from an ethnic group in the south.

The result is that the capital and other cities are almost out of fuel.

The south is being blockaded as part of a general strike staged by an ethnic group campaigning for more rights.

Out of fuel

Birgunj, on the Nepalese border with India, is a vital entry point into Nepal.

The country is completely dependent on fuel imports from its southern neighbour, which come in through five border crossings.

And Birgunj is set up to handle 60% of those imports.

Queuing for fuel in Kathmandu
Fuel and food are becoming more scarce and more pricey

The Managing Director of the Nepal Oil Corporation, Digambar Jha, says that the town's oil depot is normally bustling, but now it is completely quiet.

"The capacity is for one month," he said, "but we only have oil in stock for two days."

The towns and cities of Nepal are running out of fuel.

Drivers queue for hours for petrol and sometimes go away with none.

School are sending children home because they cannot cook for pupils.


And with a severe electricity shortage as well, hospitals cannot run generators to refrigerate their medicines.

But some tankers at least have been moving.

That is because a daytime curfew has been imposed on a crucial road linking Nepal to the south and armed escorts have been provided to tanker drivers.

They had been refusing to travel, saying they have been threatened by activists from a group of southern Nepalese peoples known as Madheshis.

This week the main Madheshi party, the United Democratic Madheshi Front (UDMF) staged a general strike which brought the fuel crisis to a head.

Many angry Madheshi demonstrators came out in defiance of the curfew.

They argue that the authorities have always exploited the people of the southern plains, complaining that few government officials come from their community even though they are well educated and make up a third of the population.

At the moment it seems the government is relying on curfews to get the fuel moving.

It is now in crisis talks with Madheshi parties to try and persuade them that their many grievances are being addressed.

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