Thinley Namgay

The government is exploring an additional port, Jogighopa in Assam to improve the water transport system and help Bhutanese in the boulder business.

Economic Minister, Loknath Sharma said discussions with counterparts are ongoing for the additional port.

The minister also informed that a few additional ports between Chilmari and Narayanganj in Bangladesh were identified and that the ministry is waiting for an approval from the Bangladeshi government. “We will also start another port from Guwahati to benefit the exporters from Samdrupjongkhar,” said Lyonpo adding that approvals for third country export from Bangladesh via Chittagong and Mongla would be starting soon.

The minister was responding to queries on what the government was doing to help those in the boulder business and those in Gelephu facing problems.

Bumdeling-Jamkhar MP, Dupthob questioned the minister on the status of government’s plans to export boulders through cargo vessels via Assam’s Dhubri and Jogighopa to Bangladesh.

At present, boulders are exporting through Dhubri port only.

MP Dupthob shared the challenges face by the exporters to the parliament members.

He said that Dhubri is a congested place.  “From the Dhubri town, Bhutanese vehicles are not allowed to pass until 11pm. Moreover, the depth of the water decreases in the winter and cargo vessel cannot sail properly,” he said. He suggested opening another port from Jogighopa to ease the current situation.

Other problems he shared were lack of additional discharge ports.

At present, Narayanganj is the only port of discharge while reaching Bangladesh. “If there are three discharge ports, exporters could export all across Bangladesh. Narayanganj is the busiest port. Moreover, boulders being non-degradable, it takes four to five days to get clearance from the authorities there,” MP Dupthob said.

On the problems related to export of boulders from Gelephu, the minister said that miscommunication among exporters and between exporters and truckers still needed to be solved.

Meanwhile, on the mini hydropower project in Lunana, Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said that government targets to complete the project within the current Plan. “The budget is not ready at the moment,” he said.

The 500KW mini-hydropower project would benefit 187 household and 11 villages. The project will cost around Nu 63 million and take almost two years to complete.

Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said that the Druk Green Power Corporation and the Department of Renewable Energy have carried out the feasibility studies. “They have started working since September 2019 and a detailed report would be ready by this month.”

However, Lyonpo said that the transporting materials to Lunana would cost as much as 41 percent of the total budget.  “We are in the process of seeking funds.”