Act immediatelyNepal may have to pay the price for a mistake it did not commit, as locals of the Indian town right across from Birgunj have issued warnings that they will prevent Nepal-bound cargo vehicles from passing through their locality if concerned Indian authorities do not address their problem.
Nepal may have to pay the price for a mistake it did not commit, as locals of the Indian town right across from Birgunj have issued warnings that they will prevent Nepal-bound cargo vehicles from passing through their locality if concerned Indian authorities do not address their problem.
Locals of the Indian town of Raxaul have long been saying that improper management of cargoes of clinker, a key raw material used in the production of cement, has caused a rise in air pollution, posing severe health risks. If this problem is not resolved by December 25, locals claim that they will halt movement of vehicles on the Indian national highway.
Most of Nepal’s imports are channelled through Raxaul, which also serves as the final transit point for vehicles ferrying goods to Nepal. A disruption to the movement of cargo vehicles in this town will a trigger shortage of petroleum products, raw materials and other essentials in Nepal. It is, therefore, essential that concerned Indian authorities hold dialogues with locals and address their demands.
Locals have been complaining about the reckless handling of Nepal-bound clinker cargoes that arrive at the railway station from Indian states such as Jharkhand and Odisha. The haphazard handling of consignments has filled the town’s air with clinker dust.
Clinker dust is harmful for health. If this issue is not solved immediately, residents of Raxaul will continue to develop allergies and respiratory problems. So, Indian authorities must act fast before the slow poison starts killing people.
Earlier, the High Court in Patna had also directed the Indian government to immediately control pollution in Raxaul. Following this, the Indian Railways had started building another station for the transportation of clinker. But locals of the area where the new station is being built have said they will not allow their town to be turned into a clinker clearing house. Their concerns are genuine and the Indian government should not coerce people to compromise on health related issues.
Yet the Indian government should not turn a blind eye to concerns of Nepal as well, which relies on India for almost all of its imports. If the protest is allowed to go on, Nepal will definitely face supply disruptions, which will trigger shortage of goods, thus allowing black markets to flourish and build inflationary pressure.
Clinker imports have gone up in Nepal due to a jump in demand for cement, as post-earthquake reconstruction works and other construction activities have started gathering pace. But Nepal will not have to rely on Indian clinker forever because the country has a huge deposit of limestone. Lately, foreign companies have started eyeing these deposits and are investing in Nepal to extract the mineral. Also, domestic cement factories have started producing clinker.
But until the time Nepal becomes self-sufficient in clinker production, it will have to rely on India. So India should make necessary arrangements to ensure uninterrupted flow of clinker to Nepal, while containing the health hazards created by movement of the raw material in the bordering Indian town.