Raxaul locals threaten to halt Nepal-bound trucksResidents of Indian bordering town of Raxaul have threatened to prevent Nepal-bound cargo trucks from passing through the Indian customs point beginning December 25 if concerned authorities fail to come up with a solution to manage pollution created by transportation of clinker, a key raw material used in production of cement.
Residents of Indian bordering town of Raxaul have threatened to prevent Nepal-bound cargo trucks from passing through the Indian customs point beginning December 25 if concerned authorities fail to come up with a solution to manage pollution created by transportation of clinker, a key raw material used in production of cement.
Ironically, the campaign to completely halt cross-border vehicular movement is being led by Mahesh Agrawal, a local leader of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), who had offered food to protesters when they had organised a sit-in at Miteri Bridge in Birgunj in September 2015 that morphed into around five-month-long Indian trade blockade on Nepal.
The awareness campaign led by Agrawal has been informing people about health hazards created by transportation of clinker and drumming up support to halt movement of vehicles on the National Highway for an indefinite period of time beginning December 25.
Nepal’s clinker import from Birgunj customs point has been growing lately due to rapid hike in demand for cement, as post-earthquake reconstruction works are gathering pace. In the first four months of the current fiscal year alone, Nepal imported 33 percent more clinker via Birgunj customs point than in the same period a year ago.
Most of the Nepali cement factories located at Bara-Parsa industrial corridor, which is in the vicinity of the Birgunj customs point, meet 80 to 85 percent of their clinker demand through imports from India. Jagadamba, Ambe, Nepal Shalimar, Star, Narayani, Bishwokarma, Shree, Krishna, RMC, International cement factories located at Bara-Parsa industrial corridor import clinker from India.
Jharkhand and Odisha are two big sources of clinker for Nepal in India. The raw material is transported from mines in trains and unloaded at Raxaul railway station. It is then transported to Nepal in trucks. The dust of clinker that blows in the air during the unloading process has affected residents of Tumeria Tole, Nepali Station and Pareuwa in Raxaul.
“Our houses and front yards are covered with dust of clinker. This has made our lives difficult,” said Irshad Alam, a resident of Raxaul, adding, “We have been demanding that the cargo be unloaded elsewhere, but our voice has not been heard.”
Earlier, locals of Raxaul had moved the High Court in Patna to find a legal solution to ease air pollution caused by clinker.
The court had directed the government to control the pollution. Following this, the Indian Railways has been building another station at Ramgadwa, located 18 km south of existing station, to unload clinker.
But Hari Mohan Bhagat, district vice president of the BJP, said locals would not allow cargoes of clinker to be unloaded at Ramgadwa.
“We might face the same problem as Raxaul if we allow cargoes of clinker to be unloaded at Ramgadwa,” Bhagat told a press meet on Thursday.
This problem, which is expected to result in complete halt in movement of cargo vehicles, has started becoming a cause of concern for traders, entrepreneurs and industrialists in Birgunj, who rely on India for raw materials and other goods.
“We have asked the Indian consulate general’s office in Birgunj to play the facilitator’s role to resolve this issue,” said Madhav Rajpal, secretary of the Birgunj Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “All stakeholders should try to address this problem.”