Commercial explosives imported from China after India’s refusalOfficials say India has been reluctant to supply explosives to be used in projects involving Chinese firms. The new imports are meant for a cement factory and a hydropower project.
Nepal has received commercial explosives from China for the first time in several years to help Chinese contractors of various projects carry out construction- and mining-related blasts.
The development comes amid perceived reluctance by India to supply explosives for projects that involve Chinese companies either as developers or contractors.
“We got a delivery of 90 tonnes of explosives from China last week,” said Ananda Chaudhary, proprietor of Tactical Solutions Pvt Ltd, which has been involved in supplying commercial explosives to various projects over the last five years. “I think this is the first time explosives were imported from China for construction projects in Nepal.”
However, Bharat Parajuli, proprietor of Ekikrit Byapar Company which has been in the same business for more than a decade, said it could be the first time in at least a decade and a half that commercial explosives have been imported from China.
“Long ago, explosives were brought from China for Chinese-funded road projects,” he added.
Chaudhary said his company brought the explosives from China for the Hongshi Shivam Cement Factory located at Nawalparasi and SinoHydro Corporation, contractor for the Senjen Khola Hydropower Project in Rasuwa district. According to him, Hongshi Shivam had sought to build an underground conveyor belt for its limestone mines.
Tactical Solutions plans to deliver 50 tonnes of explosive to Hongshi Shivam while the rest will be provided to the SinoHydro Corporation.
For over a year, government officials and contractors have been complaining about the shortage of explosives for construction projects in general and projects involving Chinese companies in particular.
An explosive supplier complained last month that the Indian Embassy had been delaying the issuance of a No Objection Certificate (NOC) for the supply of explosives for projects involving Chinese companies, although it would generally issue such certificates without delay for other projects.
Nepal has of late been importing explosives exclusively from India. Even though the Nepal Army has been producing commercial explosives at its Sunchari Emulsion Plant in Makwanpur district, it does not produce enough for all of the country’s infrastructure projects. It also relies on raw materials supplied from India.
“Because of the shortage of raw materials, new production of explosives remains more or less halted,” said Nepal Army spokesman Brigadier General Krishna Prasad Bhandari. “Our production is also not enough to meet the demand for commercial explosives in Nepal.”
As Kathmandu-Nijgadh Fast Track Project being developed by the Nepal Army has hired Chinese contractors for a number of tasks, suppliers said the project is also facing shortage of explosives after not getting any from India.
However, Brigadier General Bhandari said the fast track has not seen an acute shortage of explosives as the army has been able to ensure some supply.
Tactical Solutions plans to supply explosives even to the fast track project in the next round, although through imports from China.
Chaudhary said that his company has also initiated the process of getting approval to supply an additional 200 tonnes of explosives from China. “We have already received approval from the Ministry of Home Affairs,” he said. “We now have to go through an additional approval process including from the Nepal Army, the Chinese embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
He said more explosives will be supplied to the Kathmandu-Nijgadh Fast Track Project, 140 MW Tanahu Hydropower Company and Huaxin Cement Narayani Pvt. Ltd where the Chinese companies are involved.
In late March, a top official at the Tanahu Hydropower Limited, the developer of the 140MW project, had warned that the under-construction project could soon face a shortage of explosives, which are needed for digging tunnels, after it failed to secure explosives from India.
Kiran Kumar Shrestha, the company’s managing director, had told the Post that the Chinese contractor Sinohydro Corporation Limited—which was entrusted with building the main tunnel and underground power house as well as with the installation of hydromechanical and electromechanical equipment—might have to halt work owing to a shortage of explosives.
He had said that the project faced a shortage of explosives after the Indian Embassy did not issue an NOC for explosives despite a request around nine months earlier.
Indian officials on different occasions have hinted at blocking the supply of explosives to projects involving Chinese companies.
India sought an ‘end use certificate’ from Nepal to provide explosives for construction projects in the country during the the 10th secretary-level Joint Steering Committee on Energy Cooperation held in Jaipur, India on February 17-18. An ‘end use certificate’ is a document certifying that the buyer is the final recipient of the materials and does not plan on transferring them to others.
Nepali officials at the meeting had raised the issue of shortage of explosives in a number of projects, particularly hydropower projects.
“They raised the issue of ‘end user certificate’ while also assuring us that they will take the Nepali side’s concerns to the agency responsible for the explosives,” said a member of the Nepali delegation on condition of anonymity. Nepali officials said this new condition was intended at controlling the supply of explosives to projects funded by China or those involving Chinese contractors.
But suppliers said supply of explosives from China may not be a long-term solution.
Parajuli said taking the delivery of explosives from China is more complicated than bringing them from India because of the longer distance and high altitudes involved. “There is also a question about the supply capacity of Tibet-based factories,” he said. “Nepal needs around 3,500-4,000 tonnes of explosives a year for all its construction projects.”