KATHMANDU: Nepal started imposing restrictions on the movement of vehicles on Sunday as a blockade of cargo trucks trying to enter the country from neighboring India continued to severely limit supplies of fuel and other essential commodities.
Officials said that cars will be permitted to run on alternate days based on the last digit of their license plate. Trucks carrying supplies from India stopped entering Nepal this past week amid angry protests following the adoption of a new constitution.
Nepal, a small Himalayan nation, depends heavily on supplies from India, its giant neighbor.
Siva Tripathi, an official at Nepal's Ministry of Supplies, said that Indian security personnel and customs officials had barred supply trucks from entering Nepal, citing orders from Delhi.
"Transportation has come to a complete halt since Thursday. So we are facing the shortage of some essential items, including petroleum products," Tripathi said.
India's foreign ministry has denied that there have been restrictions imposed on Indian suppliers and blamed protests inside Nepal for the disrupted movement of oil tankers and trucks loaded with medicine, sugar, salt, food and cooking gas cylinders.
On Friday, hundreds of protesters blocked a bridge linking Birgunj, a Nepalese border town, with India. The area is about 300 kilometers (200 miles) east of Kathmandu, Nepal's capital.
While many in Nepal have welcomed the new constitution that came into force last week, some ethnic groups object to the boundaries of the seven federal states that were set up. Other protesters want Nepal to be a Hindu state and not secular as the constitution calls for.
The protests have been waning, but violence related to them has killed at least 45 people in recent weeks.
The Indian Embassy in Nepal said in a statement that Indian traders and transporters have had difficulty moving within Nepal and fear for their safety. They are afraid their trucks will be looted by protesters if they ply unescorted by security guards.
New Delhi says that the aspirations of the disgruntled groups from the southern plains bordering India have not been met, and that violence could spill into India, where a large number of Nepalese nationals work.