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Let petro rivers flow

Devendra Gautam

Devendra Gautam

Let petro rivers flow

Easy things are what our governments, and this government in particular, detest

A 69-km cross-border pipeline with a capacity to supply to Nepal two million metric tonnes of petroleum products a year.

What’s the big deal? Per ancient tales, King Bhagirath brought the river Ganga to Planet Earth from the heavens without much pomp and show.

That was cakewalk. That was a gravity-flow water supply system, modern-day engineers are likely to argue.    

Well, the Homo sapiens of this day and age are a bit different (About the ways of Bhagirath, we don’t know much). We go for easy things. We take things like time, effort and money into account.

Consider the alignment of the pipeline. The pipeline originates at Motihari, at an altitude of 66 meters, passes through Raxaul (78 meters), the Parsa national park in Nepal and culminates at an altitude of 303 meters in Amlekhgunj where Nepal has one of her vital fuel storage and distribution infrastructure.

For a country of eight-thousanders, 300-meter elevation is no big deal. That’s beside the point here. The point to note is the difference in altitude between the pipeline’s start and end points.

What’s more, the government is quite serious about extending the pipeline all the way up, literally, to Kathmandu via Chitwan (Lothar).

Defies logic?

Let’s take Thankot (Kathmandu) as the endpoint of the to-be-extended pipeline.

Even our planners, policymakers, ministers and government officials know that Thankot is way above sea-level. They know that it qualifies to be a mountain of sorts (or do they not?).

It’s quite difficult and costly to transport goods, fossil fuel included, to the hills and mountains. Well, that is what this Hillian read and also experienced in his school days. But this does not mean our mountains should be devoid of vikas (development). As for vikas, successive governments have been as serious as India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, whose rallying cry is ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’. Yours truly shall not dare translate this gem of a slogan, for his words are all too shallow.

What better way to bring vikas to the mountains than in the form of a cross-border petroleum pipeline?

The skeptics may argue: Why build petroleum pipelines in a country with a good, if not huge, hydropower potential? Pipelines are costly, time-consuming and take a lot of effort.

Why not? Our development-friendly government would like to answer, perhaps.

You see, generating hydropower in Nepal is quite easy. Every Tom, Dick and Harry can do that.

Easy things are what our governments, this government in particular, detest. This government loves challenges. Challenges like transporting fuel and gas to the mountains from almost sea-level points across the border. Such feats give our governments a sense of achievement.

Hard to believe this line of logic? Let’s turn the pages of history of the pipeline project.

With a vikas-premi sarkar in place at Singhadurbar, planning for the 69-km Motihari-Amlekhgunj petroleum pipeline began as early as 2004. The idea was to bring down the cost of shipping fuel (oil and gas are still mostly transported from across the border in tankers) and ensure a smooth supply by reducing chances of supply-related obstructions and disruptions.

Millions of Nepalis not born back then but lucky enough to get a taste of good governance these days will envy millions like yours truly for sure. Why? Because we have grown up and gotten old savoring the yummy flavor of this particular brand of governance. But don’t lose heart, guys. Competent astrologers with friends in high heavens have predicted that the current prime minister will have two more tenures.

Thanks to the pipeline, a mini-Amazon type petro river has been flowing in a country known for streams and mega-rivers like the Koshi, Gandaki and the Mahakali.

With utmost loyalty comparable to the Gurkha soldiers, these water bodies have been fulfilling drinking water, energy and irrigation needs of the neighbor across the border, with a little bit of taming and training, of course. In the coming days, more of our rivers like the Arun and the West Seti will be in the special service of our dear neighbor, thanks to our very own visionary prime minister and his predecessors, who have signed deals to this effect.

These days, certain quarters are busy spreading lies in Nepal. They have been claiming that soaring fossil fuel import bills, going further northwards due to factors like the Russia-Ukraine war, are already having an impact on the Nepali economy. They have been speculating that these soaring bills may land the country into an economic crisis. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Ever the land of milk and honey, we Nepalis have been living happily as ever before. Our trademark smile tells it all.

Don’t believe us? Come, visit us from every nook and corner of this globe and beyond. Check with your very own eyes…

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