Nepal imposes vehicle curbs due to fuel shortage fears

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Nepal on Sunday imposed nationwide restrictions on vehicle use due to growing fears of a fuel shortage after protesters seeking changes to a new constitution blocked a major border trade route.

Drivers are allowed on the road only on alternate days, depending on whether their licence plates end in odd or even numbers, as a result of the blockade on the India-Nepal border since Thursday night.

“The government has decided to limit the number of vehicles moving across the country due to the fuel shortage,” home ministry spokesman Laxmi Prasad Dhakal told AFP.

“We are facing a huge problem because of the blockade in the south and are trying to use the fuel we have effectively,” he said.

The blocked checkpoint in the town of Birgunj, 90 kilometres south of the capital, serves as the key hub for oil and food imports into landlocked Nepal.

The movement of cargo through other border checkpoints has also declined, officials have said.

The protesters, who belong to the Madhesi community, are angry about plans to divide the Himalayan nation into seven federal provinces under the charter adopted on September 20.

More than 40 people have died in weeks of clashes between police and protesters from the Madhesi and Tharu communities, ethnic minorities who say the new internal borders leave them under-represented in the national parliament.

Commuters have formed long lines at petrol stations in Kathmandu on fears of a shortage.

The government has also asked international airlines to bring their own fuel to refuel their planes because of concerns of an impending shortage on the ground, Kathmandu airport spokesman Purna Prasad Chudal told AFP. He did not elaborate on how this could be done.