Of the total Nu 4 billion Trade Support Facility (TSF) the Government of India is providing in the 12th Plan, Nu 1.7B has been earmarked for a dry port at Pasakha.

Economic affairs minister Loknath Sharma confirmed this during his two-day visit to Phuentsholing last week.

India committed the TSF to strengthen bilateral trade and economic linkages between the two countries during Lyonchhen’s state visit to India in December 2018.

Speaking to Kuensel, lyonpo Loknath Sharma said the budget has been kept considering the heavy vehicle movement to the Pasakha industrial estate. Pasakha industrial estate has over 33 establishments. Ferrosilicon is the most traded product and contributes to the movement of hundreds of heavy trucks daily. The dry port would be built to support this trade.

The dry port would be three times bigger than the mini-dry port that has been constructed in Phuentsholing.

“A 15-acres of land also has been earmarked for the dry port,” lyonpo said. “We are 60 percent sure of this project.”

Lyonpo said the government is pursuing it and is hopeful that the works would begin within the 12th Plan.

He said the government is interested in establishing dry ports in Gelephu and Nganglam. Feasibility studies would be done for Gelephu, he added.

Phuentsholing already has a mini-dry port, which is the country’s first. It is one of the three components of South Asian Sub-Region Economic Cooperation (SASEC) project with Phuentsholing thromde.

Constructed on 5.4 acres of land, the port is located near the second gate and connects the Northern bypass, another SASEC project. The port would accommodate more than 45 trucks and have customs clearance for imports and exports, and helps decongest the country’s commercial hub.

The port has essential facilities that are lacking in the existing port at the customs office in Phuentsholing. A cold storage, weigh bridge, covered transshipment shed, a separate store to house risky goods, warehouse for seized goods, a store to house seized containers, transshipment shed for container goods, and export ware house are among the facilities at the dry port.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) funded 81 percent of the total budget as grant and the government funded the rest. In total, Nu 134.85 million (M) was invested.

Although it was completed in February this year, the MDP has not been used yet. Many from the business community are waiting for the port to commence and ease the traffic congestion. The existing dry port in Phuentsholing customs office is often crowded with vehicles. The congestion most of the time elongates to the traffic and causes prolonged blockades.

Lyonpo said the MDP could not be operated because there were different agencies involved and it was not yet decided which agency would operate it.

“ADB had handed it over to the department of trade, while the project was under thromde,” he said. “It took time to prepare documents on its operation.”

Lyonpo said thromde was in a better position to operate the port. “It shouldn’t take much time and the thromde has agreed to operate it.”

Rajesh Rai  | Phuentsholing