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Transportation of clinker on hold as stalemate continues

- Rajesh Khanal, SHANKAR ACHARYA, KATHMANDU & PARSA

Dec 27, 2017-

The transportation of clinker through the Birgunj-Raxaul border into Nepal, which was halted after locals in Raxaul complained about pollution and resultant health hazards, is still on hold as the government has not been able to find an alternative place to unload the dusty cargo.

Government officials and Indian authorities held talks on Tuesday to find ways to resolve the stalemate, but the meeting ended inconclusively. Clinker is a raw material used in the manufacture of cement. Large quantities of dust is thrown into the air when it is unloaded or transshipped to another conveyance. 

Residents on the Indian side of Raxaul have been complaining that the transportation of clinker has created difficulties and congestion besides posing a health hazard from air pollution. They have warned of completely halting the movement of clinker through Raxaul if their grievances remain unheard. 

On Monday, locals halted Nepal-bound shipments for two hours from 10 am to noon. They called off the protest after Indian authorities assured them that clinker would be unloaded directly at the Inland Container Depot (ICD) in Birgunj instead of at the railway station in Raxaul.

Protests on the Indian side of Raxaul have ended, but Birgunj locals have warned that they will agitate if clinker is unloaded at the ICD because they don’t want their homes to be enveloped in dust either.

On Tuesday, residents handed over a memorandum to the government and Himalayan Terminals, a private company that has been awarded the contract to handle the dry port in Birgunj.

Himalayan Terminals Managing Director RB Rauniyar said locals had submitted the memorandum to show that they were against allowing clinker to be unloaded at the dry port. According to him, locals of mainly Sirsiya and Alau villages, which are located near the dry port, are likely to be affected much if the clinker is unloaded at the ICD.

Jharkhand and Odisha in India are two big sources of clinker for Nepal. The raw material is transported from the mines by freight train and unloaded at Raxaul railway station. It is then transported to Nepal in trucks.

Rabi Shankar Sainju, joint secretary at the Ministry of Commerce, said they had held talk with officials of Container Corporation of India and Indian Railways. “The talks were mainly focused on technical issues to resolve the problem,” Sainju said.

As per the ministry, it is almost impossible to unload clinker at the ICD. “As the dry port is not designed to store dusty cargo, it will create similar problems on the Nepal side if the cargo is unloaded at the ICD,” Sainju said.

Among the solutions being explored, the government has planned to urge cement manufacturers to use alternative border points to import the raw material. “We will hold talks with the entrepreneurs and ask them to use alternative routes among the 22 Nepal-Indian border points now in use,” he said.

According to Sainju, the government has been requesting India to allow Nepal to import bulk cargo through Jogbani, Nepalgunj and Bhairahawa customs apart from Birgunj-Raxaul. “We have sent a letter of exchange on the matter, and are expecting to receive a positive response from the Indian government,” Sainju added.

The private sector has admitted that unloading clinker at the dry port is not a solution to the problem. Anurag Sharma, chief executive officer of Jagadamba Steels, said there was not enough space at the ICD to store the raw material.

Subodh Kumar Gupta, vice-president of the Birgunj Chamber of Commerce, said the talks held on Tuesday ended inconclusively as the people concerned and high level officials of the two countries did not take part in them

Published: 27-12-2017 09:40

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