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Jan 28th 2016update is at the bottom!
Dec 5th update here is video from Nepali Times. https://youtu.be/x7DEvmIGBqs
Nov 27th update. here is a fine photo essay by Sam Cowan, a retired general from UK. It shows the Rasuwa crossing point.
Update Nov 9th a news article in Republica relayed the news that the Rasuwa road is too narrow for large petrol tankers or gas bullets.
KATHMANDU, Nov 9: Rasuwagadhi is Nepal’s only operational trade point with China. But road to this bordering town is too narrow for big trucks, tankers and bullets. The single-lane road passes through a 15-kilometer stretch which sees recurring landslides throughout the year.
Poor infrastructure in Nepali side is the bottleneck in Nepal-China trade. The Tatopani trade route, which has remained shut since the earthquake of April, is yet to come into operation. – See more at: http://myrepublica.com/feature-article/story/30902/rasuwagadhi-road-too-narrow-for-big-trucks-tankers.html#sthash.xzRFoZbJ.dpuf
Update Oct 31st
October 26th update:
This blog entry got 18,000 hits and caused the mainstream Nepal media to change their coverage of China oil. I’ve been blogging almost daily since Aug 24th on a USA blog. Click here to find the list of entries in the USA blog.
Annaupurna. Every Nepali knows that the mountains are there. I was once told that when a Nepali child asks their mother “what’s on the other side?” the answer is “Nothing. those mountains are the end of the world.” on the other side is Tibet.
It’s not going to happen.
गर्जने बादल वर्षदैन!
For a month now, since the Terai Andolan decided to block petrol supplies to Kathmandu, I’ve been reading short news articles or tweets or FaceBook posts saying China had already lined up hundreds of gas bullets or petrol trucks, and they were waiting at the border. Or maybe that NOC was now going to negotiate with China. Or something like that.
Click here for one from The Kathmandu Post, just yesterday. The link was sent to me by a USA expat who said “See! There will be petrol here! Soon!”
Talking about it does not mean that it is now happening. When an actual shipment arrives, there is no doubt in my mind that there will be live coverage on Kathmandu TV, politicians will be on hand, and puja will be offered.
Each of these newspaper reports is a fantasy, and each of these is suggested to a gullible journalist to give the illusion that the end of the petrol crisis is just around the corner. पहिले गरेर देखाउनु अनि भन्नु! China will rescue Nepal!
If you want to read another fiction, a more exciting one than that, click here for a review of my novel in Nepali Bhasa.
Caravans of magic yaks will travel over the pass, bringing LP gas cylinders.
Here is an English-language word you need to know:
Logistics is the word for how to arrange the delivery of supplies to a distant location so they will get there in time.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines logistics as “the branch of military science relating to procuring, maintaining and transporting material, personnel and facilities.” However, the New Oxford American Dictionary defines logistics as “the detailed coordination of a complex operation involving many people, facilities, or supplies,” and the Oxford Dictionary on-line defines it as “the detailed organization and implementation of a complex operation.” As such, logistics is commonly seen as a branch of engineering that creates “people systems” rather than “machine systems.”
According to the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (previously the Council of Logistics Management ) logistics is the process of planning, implementing and controlling procedures for the efficient and effective transportation and storage of goods including services and related information from the point of origin to the point of consumption for the purpose of conforming to customer requirements and includes inbound, outbound, internal and external movements.
Usually the people suggesting that China become the new supplier of petrol, have no idea that logistics exists, let alone how it applies.
Start with a picture of the road between Kathmandu and Tibet at Kodari:
Taken about a month ago. Kodari, where the where was blocked by landslide since April 24th earthquake. As of last week, the road was reported to be one lane, not blacktopped, and not capable to handle heavy traffic probably for the next two years.
Here’s a photo of a section that is not damaged:
CLICK HERE to see a pictorial essay of the Zhangmu Border road.
Next, a map of Tibet:
What is on the other side of the mountains? not much. It’s about a hundred miles to Lhasa, on the “Tibetan Plateau” and there are no trees, bushes, or towns. No facilities to get lunch or repair a broken truck.
Click here to see a video of the Tibet side. The map above does not tell the whole story, you need to know about the elevation. It’s steep!
This a very important graphic. The road between Lhasa and Nepal border goes over four mountain passes of 5,500 m each. Higher than Thorung-La pass. These need to be cleared of snow in winter. On the Nepal side, the road gains 4,000 m in elevation, much more than the road between Narayangadh and Kathmandu. (of course, trucks would ne empty going in that direction…)
Next, might as well show a map of “dry ports” – entryways to Nepal overland. Not one of the ports to China is open to cargo-carrying vehicles, since the earthquake.
None of the road ports to China are presently open. The one in Tatopani was heavily damaged and may not open for a year.
Here is a map showing the location of all blacktopped roads. To carry heavy cargo, the blacktop needs to be thick and strong. In the mountains it will create huge potholes if the ground freezes below the pavement.
blacktopped roads. There is not one blacktopped roads between Nepal and China.
a blacktop road through cold terrain needs a strong foundation, otherwise it will not last long when pounded by heavy cargo.
On a good day, prior to the Terai Andolan, the road from Terai to Kathmandu was prone to traffic jams.
What are the Chinese Newspapers saying?
Here is a report from a Chinese newspaper October 16th:
Nepalese trade entrepreneurs have been placing high hopes from the resumption of this trading point to recover their business loss. However, it might take some more weeks for smooth operation of the port, Chinese officials said.
Cheng Ji, head of the Political and News section at the Chinese Embassy who attended the reopening ceremony, informed Xinhua from the spot “Today’s reopening is only the first step toward trade operation. Since the roads and infrastructures have been heavily damaged, it might take a long period of time for the smooth operation”.
The 14 km road section between the Chinese city Kerung and Nepali custom office is quite narrow and risky. The Chinese Armed Police Force has been working over night to clear and reconstruct the roads that has been severely damaged by the quake.
Cheng Ji said “The situation here is not so good since damage is severe. The Chinese side has difficulties such as lack of permanent structures including water and power supply.”
Since Tatopani, the largest trading point between China and Nepal, has remained closed due to the severe quake damage in Zangmu port and disruption in Araniko highway, traders have viewed Kerung as their second option.
Tsetan Gyalpo, a trader and hotel entrepreneur based in Syaphrubesi at bordering district Rasuwa told Xinhua “We wish to resume our daily life and regular business through border port soon. I am just waiting for the day to see loaded vehicles running on this road as before”.
However, the Chinese disaster prevention and mitigation experts said that the Kerung border port cannot be the alternative of Tatopani, at least for some years.
A visiting Chinese expert and professor from the Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment Chen Xiaoqing who leads an 8 member delegation to Nepal, told Xinhua “The road from Nepal’s bordering district Rasuwa to Kerung is quiet narrow and poor. It cannot resist the heavy loaded vehicles.”
The above does not seem optimistic. Also, I am told that the policy is, Chinese trucks do not enter Nepal and Nepali trucks do not enter China. Every cargo truck is unloaded at the border and re-loaded. In the case of petrol, you need a “tank farm” to accomplish this. They do not have a “tank farm,” and it would take a while to build. Dec 8th update: click here for a description of the number,location, and capacity of existing tank farms. As of Dec 8th, Nepal is asking China to build more.
“tank farm” – what they don’t have at the Nepal-China border. it is very difficult to move fuel without this kind of infrastructure.
What would the cost be? If there were two barrels and one cost twice as much as the other, which would you buy?
Then there is the cost. If Nepal gets their oil via China, that means all the oil to Terai will need to go down the hill from Kathmandu and into Terai. That will be expensive, more expensive than getting it only to Kathmandu. Oil from China will be more expensive than oil from India. What happens when the border to India re-opens? obviously, businesses in Terai will resume getting their oil from India because it will be cheaper. China will need to prevent Nepalis from buying the cheapest oil, in order to protect their investment.
Update Dec 7th – click here for a discussion of the comparative price. Nepal is on the verge of locking in a higher price. uff!
On the map above, find the branch that loops down through Pakistan. That’s closer than building a new spur all the way through Tibet. The source of that map, Deep Resource, gives a fascinating description of the geopolitics of China’s oil, also explained quite well by a contributor in the comments below.
Why would China build all this just to supply Kathmandu?
What will China want from Nepal politically?
Republica published an analysis of this question Oct 22nd. As we all know, Boudha is a vibrant and important neighborhood of Kathmandu due to Tibetan expatriates living there. What if Boudha were to become a bargaining chip? We all know that the Tibetans living in Nepal “belong” here – but then again, do they? The Tibetans are not “Gorkhali” – why would we pre-suppose that the Nepal government would protect them any more than they protect other ethnic minorities such as the Madhesis?
Without a doubt, the first victims will be the Tibetans living in Nepal. It would not be surprising if for every 100 KL of oil we are asked to hand over a Tibetan living in Nepal, and for every 1000 KL, we are asked to shut down a monastery or have our monasteries turn into highly guarded prisons. We will be forced to go against the international conventions on refugees and human rights that we are signatory to. With international condemnation and probable isolation resulting from blatant violations of established global norms, we will be even more reliant on China and it will use the opportunity to change the name of Mount Everest/Sagarmatha to its Chinese name Qumolungma, an issue the Chinese have been raising on and off for many years.
In the medium and long-term, China with its highways and infrastructure development projects will project us as a likely front against India. Since such projects mean huge investment, logically, it will look for a regime that will secure its interests in Nepal. And it will instill and or support a regime favorable to its interests as it did in Myanmar until recently and which it continues to do in Zimbabwe. Our international isolation will be complete and we will become a pre-2012 Myanmar. – See more at: http://myrepublica.com/opinion/story/29948/the-bangla-solution.html#sthash.DM4qwb4s.dpuf
UPDATE Dec 4th
I found a video about the expat Tibetans in Boudha, it also includes a segment at the Rasuwa border crossing.
Where does China get it’s Oil?
Now, the logistical information above seems to clearly indicate that whatever happens, it won’t happen soon enough to warm houses in Kathmandu this winter. China will not be rescuing Nepal. Also, there is a cost to be weighed – does Nepal want to give up it’s sovereignty to China?
One interesting question remains – where does China get it’s oil? the answer is – from the Baku oilfields in Azerbaijan and in Tajikstan. There is a pipeline running from the west, to China, and it is already built. Below is an excerpt from a fascinating article about the international oil business, titled “Fury of the Audacious Dragon.”
The first part of the article is devoted to how the Chinese competed against the Americans to buy oil resources. Finally it gets to the part that applies to the “Oil Silk Road” –
Half a world away, China turned to its Western neighbors for oil and gas. In 2005, China’s CNPC bought Canadian-based Petrokazakhstan miles above market value beating Russia’s privately owned Lukoil, sending shock-waves to the Eastern part of the world. This time Lukoil never stood a chance. Russia’s influence on its Southern neighbors had waned.
In a region that was influenced by Russia for centuries, Central Asia was not exactly transportation friendly. All pipelines led to Russia, all roads led to Moscow. Realizing the infrastructure shortcoming, China wasted no time to build and finance a 3,000 km oil pipeline – the Kazakhstan China Pipeline (KCP). Operational in 2011, the pipeline joined China’s Xinjiang Province to the Caspian Sea, a new milestone, beating the clock when its competitors were at the gates.
Kazakhstan’s oil reserves of 30 billion m3 is by no means j.v. China’s KCP has become a direct competitor of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium CPC, owned by Gazprom, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Baku-Tbilisi- Ceyhan (BTC), and controlled by BP. The Western world was still oblivious to the presence of the Dragon. Further onslaught was on the cards.
Turkmenistan has natural gas reserves of 17.5 trillion m3, the 4th largest in the world. In Central Asia, the China Gas Pipeline started construction in 2008 with pipelines A an B. In 2011, a delivery capacity of 30 billion m3 was achieved. With the completion of Line C, the 1839 km – A, B and C – triple parallel Pipeline of 55 billion m3 started flowing on 31 May 2014
In 2013, US shale oil and natural gas production shot through the roof. As the end of Middle East oil dependency came naturally and automatically, US could afford to lift its foot off the pedal. Central Asia pipeline diplomacy was knocked off center stage and the much touted and delayed, Turkmenistan-Afganistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline became bogged down in a quagmire. With breakneck speed, China signed inter-Governmental agreements with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan for the 4th gas line or D line, and by September 2014, a deal was in the bag to increase supply to China to 65 billion m3, representing 20% of Chinese 2014 requirements. At the same time, TAPI member States were still haggling over who should do what and when, plunging the whopping $10 billion Asian Development Bank project into further uncertainties.
When the plan to construct a pipeline from Kazahkstan and Turkmenistan to China was first announced at the beginning of the 21st century, it was dubbed the Energy Silk Road. It has since morphed into a giant network of oil and gas flowing all the way to South and East China. read more at http://oilpro.com/post/12038/fury-audacious-dragon
The oil pipeline that runs through Tajikstan and XinChiang province has been named “The New Silk Road” after the route taken by Marco Polo. I runs far to the north of the Nepal border.This maps shows Marco Polo’s route, not the pipeline!
What you read in the papers
So, those announcements that somehow a magic alternative source of petrol or LP gas, are there to give you false hope, and to stall you into thinking that something amazing will happen, just around the corner. Only, this corner will never be turned.
काम साछे आफु लाई, खाना साछे अरुलाई! All the Nationalists who want to get LP gas from China, should go to the Himalaya, and learn how to harness a yak caravan to bring it. After all, the bhote people aren’t “real Nepalis” – are they? can they be trusted to bring LP gas to Kathmandu?
The Sacrament of the Goddess?
If you got this far, you might like to read my books. This blog may be serious but The Sacrament of the Goddess is a fast-paced adventure novel that describes the very real choices people need to make when they are caught up in turmoil.
about commenting: This blog is actively moderated. If you use profanity, or attack me personally, or get off topic, or use ALL CAPS, or cut-and-paste something really long so as to teach me about history, I will not approve the comment. Don’t waste my time or yours. I’m probably going to cut off future comments soon.le
One last obstacle….
NOV 26th update? click here for update.
Jan 28, 2016
from Kantipur, translated by Sam Cowan. I found this on FaceBook page of Prashant Jha.
I am reposting this post from last night but this time, for ease of ‘sharing’, without the link to the kantipur article.
After months of blaming India, now it’s China’s turn?!
The article at the link below appeared in kantipur on Tuesday of this week. Kanak Mani Dixit posted the link on Twitter and Facebook, characterising the article as, “India’s carries out a blockade through selective openings, China is doing the same by closing the Tatopani route.”
This struck me as extraordinary given the well reported extensive earthquake damage in the area of Friendship Bridge, including to the bridge itself, and particularly in Khasa, the transshipment area for all goods being exported from China, where the slope on which the town is built moved 1.5 metres down the hill, making the place uninhabitable and the land unsuitable for future construction. Every person in the area had to be evacuated to new accommodation in Shigatse, 475 kms away.
 When India pressures us to use transit points other than Birgunj for trade, we’ve been saying that it’s impractical. When China also closes a transit point that could easily be used for trade and says ‘Rasuwagadhi is open’, that’s like India saying ‘Even though Birgunj is closed, Bhair
I asked a professional translator to paraphrase four key sections of the article to convey its general sense. These are given below and show the characterisation quoted above to be accurate.
 In recent days they’ve started to say that there’s a blockade not only by India, but by China as well. When they close the transit point at Tatopani for nine months, it should be understood that they are hindering us, not helping us.
 The convenient Tatopani transit point which has been operational for years has been completely shut down for a long time now. One doesn’t see any interest from China in opening up the transit point which was closed following the earthquake. This is a transit point which has been used for commercial trade for nearly four decades.ahawa is open’.
 The result of China using the earthquake as a pretext, which gives it a great opportunity to manage its own internal problems, is the closing of Tatopani. Suspicion has increased that the activities of Tibetan refugees have taken deep root in Tatopani, which has expanded as a centre for trade over the last decade. After many homes there were damaged by the earthquake, China resettled all of its citizens who had been living in places connected to Tatopani, including Khasa and Laptang, to the city of Shigatse, nearly 450 km away.
These paraphrases are sufficient to show that while the author makes oblique reference to damage from the earthquake in the Tatopani/Khasa area, the scale of it is understated. The clear suggestion is that China could reopen the crossing point at any time it chooses but has not done so in order to deal with TIbetan refugees allegedly active in the area. The damage to the bridge is dealt with dismissively as being of little consequence. Because of one piece of striking information in it, the paragraph which mentions the bridge damage is given here as a full translation:
“And that’s not all — last week a Chinese official handed over a letter to the head of Customs at Tatopani, Divyaraj Pokharel, asking for permission to demolish the ‘Friendship Bridge’. It was noted in the letter that once the bridge was demolished it would take at least two years to build a new one. What this means is that China is still not ready to send over the merchandise of Nepalis which is in Khasa.”
The last sentence [‘what this means’] hardly follows logically from the previous two but, if true, it is surprising that the key information in the paragraph did not feature as a lead item in all Kathmandu media sites: namely, that the bridge is so severely damaged that it has to be knocked down and replaced by a new one. The span is a long one, much longer than the recently built bridge at Rasuwa Garhi, so the work described would be a major civil engineering challenge though well within the scope of Chinese capabilities.
Just amazing. Ever since autumn, it’s been clear that petrol via China was a fantasy.
There is a PART TWO. Click here to go to part two with more photos and videos.
Pleas note: I laughed out loud when somebody said I was an agent of RAW. funny!