There is more confusion for those in the boulder export business.
Some, in Phuentsholing, have resumed business “just like before” meaning that all the issues surrounding the load capacity, the restriction from authorities and the whole gross vehicle weight (GVW) are now not applicable.
For them business is as usual. But there is no official confirmation and as of yesterday, some were penalised for carrying more than what they were supposed to. In the meantime, confusions in the export of stones and boulders from Phuentsholing have resulted in miscreants across the border lifting stones.
In Gelephu, exports of some materials have resumed, but with strict restriction on the load capacity. Trucks carrying boulders are not supposed to carry more than 18 metric tonnes. Export permits are issued not based on the weight of the load, but on the number of wheels on a truck. The forest department who issues the export permit is not concerned about the weight.
Trucks leaving Gelephu cannot be weighed. In the absence of a weighbridge, what is reflected in the export declaration form is the weight.
With these confusions, like exporters said, all the problems that halted a lucrative business, is thrown out of the air. Weight of load is not even in the picture now.
It has been more than a month since the whole issue came to the surface. Yet there is not one good solution to ease the business. Exporting stones and boulders to Bangladesh is a lucrative business with the potential to bring revenue to the government. It is also a seasonal business and we have lost a lot of opportunities. Those in the business were the worst affected with some taking huge loans to invest in the business.
Without clear solutions coming from those with decision-making powers, exporters are taking the matter in their own hands. The main market, Bangladesh need stones. The export will resume when the river level subsides in winter.
Exporters are exploring water routes from Gelephu. They are far ahead and have explored routes and compared the cost of transportation. With huge cost and hassles involved in land transportation, waterways sound like a good solution. According to exporters, water routes through Dhubri and Joghigopa in Assam are shorter, cheaper and if made possible, even hassle-free.
The new idea should not be left to the private sector alone. Without the involvement of the government, there will be problems. From experience, we know everybody is ready to pounce on a business opportunity. Those across the border will want to make their share for using their river.
The government had already signed a standard operating procedure on the operationalisation of the agreement on the use of inland waterways. They could help the private sector by expediting the agreement.
In the east, some exporters resorted to hiring trains paying a huge amount in charges only to be unloaded at the Bangladesh-India border. They are waiting for the government to expedite on the tripartite meeting.
Without land customs on the Indian side, where all goods bound for third countries pass through, exporters are at lost even if the business is lucrative.