After four years of regular operations, the Tiptala transit at Olangchung Gola in the Taplejung district of Nepal, which was blocked during the Covid period, is still closed, according to a report by the official news agency of Nepal, RSS.
The locals’ movement has been restricted and commerce with neighboring China has ceased as a consequence of the closing of the border post.
Soon after Chinese laborers came home after building roads on the Nepali side, the Chinese government requested that the border crossing be blocked to prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to reports. According to the official news outlet Rastriya Samachar Samiti (RSS), the Riu administration in Nepal was asked to block the transit point because of this, citing the possibility of the virus spreading in China due to the open border.
Residents in neighboring Tanga, Thudam, Olangchung Gola, and Topkegola find this more challenging because they must purchase necessities from the Chinese market because Phungling, the district capital, is inaccessible during the rainy season owing to floods and landslides.
“90% of the people of Olangchung Gola in Phaktanglung-7 and Yanga and Ghunsa depend on the Chinese market for their daily necessities,” said Chheen Tanshi Sherpa, a local resident.
The supply of food and other necessities from China has ceased as a result of the lengthy closure of the passage. We are not able to deliver critical items, such salt for yak and other necessities,” Sherpa was cited as saying by the official news agency.
Trade with China has stopped as a result of the crossing’s closure, according to Chheten Walung, Phaktanglung Rural Municipality-7’s ward chair. At 4,200 meters above sea level, the hamlet of Yanga was reliant on the Chinese market for their daily needs, whereas the community of Olangchung Gola, at 3,200 meters above sea level, mostly engages in commerce and animal husbandry.
According to Jiten Chemjong, the assistant program coordinator for the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area Management Council, they are carrying food goods from Phungling as a consequence of the crossing being closed for an extended period of time.
The Yanga community has been reliant on the Chinese market ever since. They began to depend on the Nepali market since the border was blocked for an extended period of time, he claimed.
Tenzing Walung, Phaktaglung-7’s ward office assistant, claims that carpets, dairy goods, livestock, and yaks made in Nepali villages are marketed in a variety of Chinese marketplaces.
For the last four years, the border has been closed. Trade has been suspended with China. The sources of revenue have substantially reduced in the absence of commercial operations,” he said.
He continued, saying that the merchants are going through a financial crisis since the cattle industry and animal goods could not find a market.
Through the sale of carpets in the Chinese market, the residents of Olangchung Gola have been able to support themselves well. But according to Lama Bhujung Sherpa, a local, their carpets had been stacked up at home for the last four years. “In my home, there are fifty rugs stacked high. The Phungling market offers affordable pricing for carpet sales. I have thus kept them at home.
According to him, several villages were compelled to transport the finished carpets to Phungling where they were sold for less than what it cost to make them.
Similarly, the therapeutic plant Chiraito is grown in many locations in the districts of Taplejung, Panchthar, Tehrathum, and Ilam, and it is sent to China through the Olangchung Gola. However, because to the lengthy border closure, the merchants were forced to retransport it via Phungling to Sikkim, India, which resulted in a transportation loss, according to local businessman Dawachungdak Sherpa.
According to Man Kumar Rai, a local farmer from Yamphudin in Sirijanga Rural Municipality, this disappointed the Chiraito farmers in Taplejung, Panchthar, Ilam, and Tehrathum districts. “Trademen used to come to my house in search of Chiraito, but they don’t seem to talk about it anymore,” he said.
According to Raj Kumar Rai, a farmer from Phaktanglung-6, the farmers stopped growing therapeutic herbs because Chiraito was no longer provided to China.
According to the ward chair of Phaktanglung-7 Walung, the transportation of a 50 kg bag of rice from Phungling to Olangchung Gola costs Rs 100 per kilogram, meaning that a 50 kg bag of rice costs Rs 5,000 in total. A car from Phungling can bring items to Lelep in a day. At a height of 3,200 to 4,500 meters above sea level, Olangchung Gola, Yanga, Phale, and Ghunsa get supplies from Lelep by mules or humans, he added. He added the commodities’ worth is not equal to the cost of transportation, which is three times more.
Chinese trucks used to take products from China to the border at Tiptala, and then from there to their houses on their own yaks, he added, until the crossing was blocked. “Shipping products from China has relatively cheap transportation costs. However, transporting products from Phungling is three times more expensive than the purchasing price, he said. Two years ago, Yanga’s Kande Gyabu Sherpa had 32 yaks; now, there are 64. He said that because of the border shutdown, he was unable to sell his yaks in the Chinese market.
The yaks haven’t been sold for the last four years. The calves of yaks have
not been sold since COVID-19 caused China to close the border.
Yak raising is the primary source of income for the people living in the Himalayan area. However, the absence of yak exports to China is making it difficult for the locals to carry out everyday tasks, according to locals cited by RSS. For the last four years, Phincho Sherpa has not sold any yaks from his yak shed. He now owns sixty yaks instead of the twenty-five he had four years ago. Sonam Sherpa of Yanga said that Nepalese yaks, their calves, and dairy products like ghee and churpi manufactured from yak milk command excellent prices in the Chinese market.
In the Chinese market, a yak sells for between Rs 60,000 and Rs 150,000, he claimed. Similarly, a kilogram of churpi and yak ghee costs Rs 1,200 each. In the Tokpekola region, more than 2,000 yaks are raised in 35 yak sheds, according to Dandu Lama, vice chair of the Mikkakhola Rural Municipality.
According to Pema Sherpa of Ghunsa, people in seven out of the district’s nine local levels have been raising yaks since they can earn a decent living by exporting them to China. When asked when things would get better, Phaktanglung Rural Municipality-7 ward chair Walung said that the Tiptala and Tiptala Bhanjyang transits will start up again in a month. The residents in the area are ecstatic at the news. All will be OK when the transportation system reopens. Everyone would benefit from it, according to Donga Sherpa of Olangchung Gola.
According to Chief District Officer Goma Devi Chemjong, the crossing’s opening procedure has started. Representatives from Taplejung district and Dinggye County, in the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China, met virtually on May 5, 2023, to discuss border opening.
The Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had previously been encouraged to coordinate the border opening by the ward office in Olangchung Gola, Phaktanglung Rural Municipality, and the district administration office in Taplejung. The Chinese authorities reportedly promised to open the border, allowing people to go only from Tiptala Bhanjyang, according to Ward Chair Walung. Previously, travelers could move from the Ghangla transport as well.
In particular, the people who lived in Yanga used to go to Riu over the Ghangla border. Only Riu, which is 25 kilometers from the border, is accessible to the population of the bordering region.
Tibet is now aiming after Taplejung and Sankhuwasabha in Nepal and has set up a commercial center at Ghumti, some 35 km from Riu. The distance between Olangchung Gola and the border is 24 kilometers. Walking from the communities in Yangma along the border to Riu takes three days. However, it takes a day from Olangchung Gola, according to the official news agency.