Dechen Dolkar

Due to the lower fuel prices in Bhutan compared to India, Indian vehicles in bordering towns refuel at fuel stations in Bhutan.

Every day, more than 300 Indian heavy and light vehicles, as well as 250 two-wheelers, come to fuel up at Phuentsholing oil distributors.

Fuel prices in Bhutan are approximately Nu 25 cheaper than in India in the bordering towns.

Each truck fuels up to an average of 800 litres, each petrol car an  average of 35 litres,and each two-wheeler an average of 12 litres daily.

During last month’s Samtse Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT) meeting, concerns were raised about some Indian vehicles modifying their fuel tanks to exceed their capacity,  which resulted in frequent fuel shortages in the dzongkhag.

The DT has asked the concerned authorities to restrict the amount of fuel Indian cars can purchase from the three fuel stations in the dzongkhag.

The DT has also instructed the dzongkhag administration, municipal office, Bhutan Construction and Transport Authority, and Thromde Ngotshap offices to collaborate and set limits on the fuel quantity that Indian vehicles can purchase.

However, an official from STCBL said that the office was implementing a strategy to distribute fuel to both Indian and Bhutanese vehicles efficiently. The official mentioned that two dispensing units are being set up, one each for Bhutanese and Indian vehicles with two employees at each unit to ensure Bhutanese vehicles do not have to wait in long queues.

“We cannot deny customers from India, since most of our customers are Indian from the bordering towns. We cannot sustain with only Bhutanese vehicles,” said the official.

The STCBL official also noted that Indian vehicles refuel in Bhutan due to the proximity and the lack of nearby fuel stations in bordering towns.

However, the official said that they are controlling and banning Indian cars trying to resell fuel in India. 

“We caught an individual who refuelled a car in Bhutan and resold the fuel in India,” said the STCBL official.

Samtse Dzongdag Minjur Dorji said that the issue would soon be discussed with relevant stakeholders, fuel distributors, and the Department of Trade to ensure a swift supply of fuel in the dzongkhag.

According to the Environmental Accounts Report 2023, a portion of the imported petrol and diesel in Bhutan is consumed by Indian vehicles operating on Bhutanese roads. This includes vehicles transporting goods in and out of Bhutan, as well as Indian tourist vehicles. Additionally, Indian vehicles refuel in the border towns of Samdrupjongkhar, Gelephu, Phuentsholing, Gomtu, and Samtse.

The report states that the re-export of fuel increased from 9,846.94kl in 2021 to 10,538.93kl in 2022, marking an increase of 6.57 percent. Specifically, the re-export of petrol increased from 6,543.29kl in 2021 to 7,316.30kl in 2022, while the re-export of diesel decreased from 3,303.65kl to 3,222.63kl.