Hoteliers searching alternatives to LPGKalpana Gaire, owner of Palpali Fast food at Tinkune in Kathmandu, has managed to keep her establishment running at the time of fuel shortage by burrowing cooking gas
Kalpana Gaire, owner of Palpali Fast food at Tinkune in Kathmandu, has managed to keep her establishment running at the time of fuel shortage by burrowing cooking gas from some students living in her neighbourhood who were leaving home for Dashain festival.
The students agreed to lend their cooking gas cylinders to Gaire on a condition that she would return refilled cylinders once they return after the holidays. If there is still shortage after Dashain, Gaire has promised the students to offer them free meals at her restaurant.
“I have taken five cylinders from the students. It was the only way to keep my business running,” Gaire said.
Like Gaire, hoteliers have come up with different measures to keep their service operational in time of the crisis. Some have moved back to time-tested sources of energy such as wood and charcoal while others are relying on electric stoves.
According to Nepal LP Gas Industry Association, 3 million gas cylinders are required to address the current crisis caused by unofficial border blockade enforced by India.
“My husband is busy collecting cooking gas cylinders,” said Rekha Ale, owner of On Road Nepali Chulo. To run the restaurant, Ale’s husband has borrowed gas cylinders, some of the half used, from his friends and relatives who left Kathmandu Valley for Dashain vacation.
She said that due to the shortage of cooking gas more customers are visiting her restaurant to eat these days . “We used to have around 300 visitors a day, now we receive up to 800 people,” said Ale.
Shiva Sweets which has its outlets at New Baneshwor and New Road, Dhanusha Sweets Shop at Thimi, and many other sweet shops in the Valley are using firewood to keep their business running for the past couple of weeks.
“Cooking on firewood is time-consuming, but we have no other option,” said Birendra Kumar Shah, owner of Sahayogi Sweet Center. Shah has been buying wood from a local carpentry shop at Rs 25 per kg.
Bhim Karki, one of the staff at Shah’s sweet shop, said it was difficult cooking on firewood. “The wood doesn’t burn well and there is more smoke than flame,” he said. Small hoteliers are using coil heaters to prepare tea and snacks for customers. Although it is environment friendly, cooking takes a lot of time. “For every item, customers have to wait between 45 minutes to an hour when the same items could have been prepared in 15 minutes using LPG gas,” said Shyam Lala Shrestha, owner of Sagar Newari Khaja Ghar.
Pramod Jiswal, President of Restaurant and Bar Association Nepal, said over 30 percent of restaurants and bars are already closed owing to the fuel and cooking gas shortage. “We have given directive to the restaurant owners to use alternative fuel such as coil, charcoal and wood, even though they are not efficient business-wise,” said Jiswal. Hotel Association Nepal (HAN) said starred and non-starred hotels are catering to only those customers who are staying at the hotel.
“Those who are not able to provide the basic services are already closed,” said HAN President Shyam Sundar Lal Kakshapati. He added if the government is not able to address the present crisis soon, the tourism industry will be hit badly.
People face hardship during festival season
People in various districts are facing hardship due to the shortage of fuel, cooking gas and food during festival season.
Many hotels and restaurants in Chitwan are closed as a result of cooking gas shortage. Most of those that are in operation are relying on firewood.
Rishiram Dhakal, who runs a hotel, said he has been cooking food on firewood since LPG cylinders are not available in the market. “Because of the shortage, even the cost of daily essentials has escalated,” he said. Similar is the plight of many families in the district.
Sushil Swarnakar said since he ran out of cooking gas he has been having his dinner at his friend’s house.
Meanwhile, shortage of petrol and diesel has hit the people who were planning to visit their families outside the district to celebrate Dashain. Very few public vehicles are plying the streets these days, because of the fuel shortage in the country. Rajesh Thakur, who is originally from Bara district, said he does not know how he will visit his family this Dashain. “If the shortage continues we won’t even have food to eat,” he lamented. Laxman Pariyar, who hails from Gulmi district, said he will not be able to visit his family for this year’s Dashain. He has been working at a plant inside the Lumbini Industrial Corridor. “The factory is closed for the last two months because of the Madhes protest, which means I haven’t earned any money for the last two months,” he said.
Meanwhile, elderly citizens in Kapilvastu are worried that they will not be able to celebrate Dashain this year.
Eighty- six-year-old Kamne Singh Damai of Kharuhuriya VDC-6 said he was devastated when he learnt that his VDC office will not be providing the elderly allowance before the festival this year. Single women and disabled persons are also not getting their social security allowances as the concerned agencies could not complete the documentation process in time.