Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

By the end of 2024, Bhutan will have its biggest dry port.

The Mega Dry Port (MDP), the largest in the country will be developed at Pasakha, which is strategically located near the Pasakha Industrial Estate and Bhutan-India border at Allay land customs station.

The ground breaking ceremony was conducted yesterday.

Besides Pasakha industries, the dry port will also cater to import and export of goods from western and central regions of Bhutan.

Covering a space of 15.06 acres, the port will be constructed with an estimated budget of Nu 1.7 billions (B). The Government of India (GoI) is funding the project under the trade support facility program.

The pre-feasibility studies were carried out in 2016-2017 with the financial and technical assistance from the World Bank.

There are three phases to the project and yesterday’s ground-breaking ceremony was conducted for the first phase, which is the construction of 1.2km length boundary RCC wall.

Hi-Tech construction is executing the work and it is expected to complete by the end of 2021. Other packages include works such as the approach road to the project site, refilling of the project area, construction of civil structures such as guesthouses, warehouses and internal roads.

The overall project is expected to complete by the end of 2024.

During the ceremony yesterday, Department of Trade’s (DoT) director general, Sonam Tenzin, said the dry port is one of the biggest infrastructural development projects undertaken by the department. “It is part of the government’s continuous effort to facilitate trade and improve logistical facilities for our import and export.”

He said the need for the dry port facilities has become critical and necessary to address the logistical challenges faced by landlocked Bhutan for import and export business.

The mega dry port is expected to significantly address logistical challenges faced by the private sector such as processing import and export, transhipment of cargos, long transit times and high freight costs for movement of goods across the border. The port will also help reduce the risk of damages and pilferages to cargo during the processing, storage and transhipment while providing improved facilities for traders.

Meanwhile, Hi-Tech company has employed 130 construction workers, out of which only four are foreign workers.

The company’s managing director, Tshewang Norbu, said that the actual construction work had begun in October 2020. “The work couldn’t be carried out due to the lockdown.”

He also said that the shortage of construction workers is the main issue. Today, the construction firm has also given jobs to youths (students) on a temporary basis.

The construction is carried out in a self-contained mode under strict compliance to the Covid-19 containment protocols issued by the task force.

The chairman of the southern task force graced the ground-breaking ceremony yesterday. The Consul General of the Embassy of India and the regional heads attended the tendrel.

Trade officials say similar dry ports will also be developed in Gelephu and Nganglam. The port in Gelephu will be constructed in 13 acres of land, while in Nganglam, it will be constructed in eight acres. The pre-feasibility studies will be completed by June this year.