September 20, 2015 was a day of paradox in Nepal. Mixed emotions were up in the air; some celebrating and some creating havoc. This excitement was due to the establishment of their new Constitution. Although many people have accepted the Constitution to be the start of a new era, others have violently opposed it.
Nepal is a landlocked country with its only access to the sea being through its neighbor, India. Nepal is highly dependent on imports of commodities from the international community. It receives its goods by using the seaport in India from which they are then transported through the customs located in the Southern border of Nepal. There is currently a National Alert due to the blockade of the border caused by protesters, completely shutting off the vital supply line. The protesters are there because they believe that the new Constitution has marginalized the people of the Southern Lowlands.
This has created panic and state of helplessness in Kathmandu, if not in the entire country, due to a shortage of supplies. Supply trucks are unable to cross the border leaving the country short on fuels (aviation, petrol and diesel), liquid petroleum gas (LPG), food and medication. The government has advised international airlines to refuel elsewhere, as there is no fuel in Kathmandu. Most vehicles are parked along the side of the road where their drivers wait to for fuel. What seems to appear as a taxi stand are actually a line-up of taxis and buses trying to get what little fuel they can. Some households are now relying on local restaurants for food as their gas tanks are empty. Shortages of essential medications in hospitals are a looming concern. Living in a city, fuel is the main source for transportation. Due to this shortage the city is slowly becoming paralyzed.
This case has been a clear example of our total dependence on fossil fuel and gas. The government of Nepal has called for an odd-even driving system for all household vehicles that began on Sunday September 27, 2015. This strategy was used to reduce the consumption of petroleum by half. People with even licence plates can only drive on even days and vice-versa. Although this drastically reduces the amount of vehicles on the roads of Kathmandu, there has been an extreme overload of people trying to get to work on buses. It is now a battle to take a bus. Furthermore, there is a shortage of buses forcing and overloaded of people on operating vehicles, sometimes leaving people literally hanging off of a bus or being on top of the roof. The safety of people is at concern.
With an abundant availability of renewable energy sources, it is confusing that people continue to rely on fossil fuels, refusing to shift to an alternative source of energy. Many political leaders as well as the general populous are too caught up discussing the limitations and flaws of solar or wind energy and continuously praise the use of fossil fuel. This protest has sent more than a message of concern for the Constitution; it has revealed the truth about the limitations of our dependence on fossil fuel.
One of the biggest obstacles to alternative energy sources can be the cost. However, this is only a problem if we pursue the issue using a short-term approach. When we begin thinking about long-term solutions fossil fuel is immediately inconceivable. Why? Because it is a depleting source of energy. It is environmentally harmful during use and during extraction. Destroying the environment ultimately means that we are putting our health in jeopardy.
This supply shortage raises questions about the future. What will happen when the problem of supply shortage is not limited to the blockade of the border but an actual depletion of fossil fuel? What will happen to countries that lack research in alternative energy solutions? What will happen to our children suffocating from the pollution that we created? What will be the solution for all the problems caused by our greed and dependence on fossil fuel? What will we do when there is no time left? Why let the known problems that we have no answers to solve grow? This crisis should not be taken as only an issue related to short-term lack of supply to sustain our livelihood. This event should be an eye-opening call for us to rethink what we are dependent on. It is crucial to redirect our interest and investment on long-lasting and promising low carbon, if not zero, technologies.
To find out more on Nepal’s current crisis
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-34280015 – controversies of the new constitution
http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2015-09-27/fuel-crisis-worsens.html – fuel crisis worsens
http://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/nepal-gets-new-constitution/ – Nepal gets a new constitution
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of WindPower Nepal Pvt Ltd.)