Nima | Gelephu 

The export of boulders from Gelephu has dropped sharply. Only three exporters are involved in the business after the introduction of strict vehicle inspection along the highways in Assam, India.

From 627 truckloads in May, the exporters from Gelephu could export only 321 truckloads of boulders to India and Bangladesh this month.

The trucks carrying boulders and stone chips to India are stopped along the way and fined for overloading. The most used 10 wheeler trucks was not allowed to carry over 27 metric tonnes of load for more than a week, according to the exporters.

“We are allowed to carry only 18 metric tonnes of load today. Business so is not profitable,” said an exporter.

An exporter and owner of a crushing unit in Sarpang, Rigzin, said that a 10-wheeler truck was not allowed to carry not more than 18 metric tonnes of load. “Considering the daily expenses, there is not much of profit if we are not allowed to carry 28 metric tonnes.”

He added that the exporters paid export royalty for over 28 metric tonnes of boulder to the department of the forest.

Exporters pay royalty fees for 10-wheeler load, over 28 metric tonnes, but they could only transport six-wheeler load of 18 metric tonnes because of the increased inspection along the Indian highways.

Programme officer with Bhutan Export Association (BEA), Guru Wangchuk, said the export decreased following the lockdown in Meghalaya and after Bangladesh borders remained closed as part of Covid-19 protocol.

“Buyers from Assam don’t need aggregates and boulders during the rainy season due to continuous rainfall. They don’t have proper stockyards to stock boulders and aggregates. Constructions works are not carried out in summer,” he said.

The official added that it was difficult to get vehicles for the export if the loads were to be carried as per the carrying capacity. “The main problem is with the extortions along the way. The collection amounts were less when there were more trucks. There are only a few vehicles today,” said Guru Wangchuk.

However, the situation is expected to improve with the exporters trying to transport boulders to Bangladesh via Dubri, the nearest port to Gelephu in India.

Exporters said that the transporters could not reach the Covid-19 test points along the way and at the destination because the medical check-up points remained open from 7 AM till 7pm. “The trucks carrying loads leave from Gelephu by 5pm.”

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk