January 27: Tiptala pass along the Nepal-China border in Taplejung district has remained closed for three years, causing inconvenience to the locals living in the border areas.
It was shut by China owing to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic three years ago. People of Olangchung Gola, Yanga, and Ghunsa have been affected the most by the closure of the transit point as they largely depended on the imports of food stuffs, garments and daily consumables from the Tibetan Riu market.
With the closure of the border, they have switched to the supply from Phungling, the district headquarters. The imports from the district headquarters have caused them additional financial burden than from Tibet as it increases the transportation cost. It costs Rs 30 per kg for iodized salt in Phungling which climbs to Rs 100 after it is transported to Olangchung Gola.
The closure of the pass has its implications on the socio-economic life of the people. Exports from the villages have been hampered. Prior to the pandemic, they would supply medicinal herbs, Nepali carpets and livestock to Tibet, according to Olangchung Gola’s outgoing ward chair Chheten Sherpa. He says the transportation cost from Phungling to Olangchung Gola is at least Rs 60 per kg and it will go high if it needs to be transported up to Yanga.
Yanga, Ghunsa and Olangchung Gola are yet to be connected with the road network. Animal husbandry, herbs collection and carpet production are major occupations of the people here. Before the border was sealed, they would supply dairy products such as ghee and cheese from their house. Now their trade has been largely disturbed. Carpet business is totally down. They have numerous challenges to supply the products to domestic markets due to geographical issues.
In addition to this, medicinal herbs collected by farmers and suppliers in Ilam and Panchthar districts were being supplied to Tibet. Now these two districts supply the collections to domestic markets via Birtamod of Jhapa.
The Tiptala folks expect the government to take initiations for reopening the border to normalize their life.
It takes around two days to reach Olangchung Gola from Phungling as the transportation service is available only up to Lepe of Phungling while it takes two to three days to reach Yanga, Ghunsa and Thudam.
Olangchung Gola is home to 53 families while 13 families reside in Yanga. -- RSS