Report: Construction of the proposed Pasakha dry port in Phuentsholing will have some negative impact on air, water, noise and soil but with mitigation measures it can be minimised, according to an environmental assessment report recently released by the economic affairs ministry.

While untreated disposal of sewage will impact water quality, there should be no significant adverse cumulative impact expected from the dry port and the other projects that aid in the creation of the dry port, the report states.

The development of the dry port is expected to contribute to growing traffic, commercial activities, that may indirectly lead to additional pollution.

“Thus, it is important that institutional strengthening is required and improvements in resources are needed to achieve better enforcement to support strategic management of pollution control and resource exploitation in the long term,” the report states.

It is envisaged that the construction and operation of the proposed dry port will lead to localised environmental impacts during both construction as well as operation phases.

Phuentsholing is prone to landslides due to high tectonic and neo-tectonic activities. “However, as the proposed site is located on flat terrain the impacts due to landslide will be insignificant.”

The proposed site experiences relatively low wind speeds. During the low wind speed season, air pollutants may not be dispersed to longer distances.

As the emissions either from vehicles or from handling equipment will take place at the ground level or low altitudes, the impacts will be localised to the project site and in the project area of influence.

Release of pollutants from trucks and other port operating equipment would further impact the air quality situation around the project location.

Meanwhile, there are no endangered or threatened species in the immediate vicinity of the dry port area, the report concludes. Thus, the impact on biological environment is expected to be minimal.

Development of the dry port shall lead to reduction in greenhouse emissions due to reduction of travel distance. With the reduction in travel distance, other gaseous emissions and fugitive emissions will also be reduced, according to the report.

The proposed dry port site is located at Pasakha, the largest industrial area in Bhutan, and is within 1km from the Bhutan-India border. The dry port will be developed on an area of 15 acres, which is about 20km from the Phuentsholing gate.

It is pointed out that the proposed dry port is in a strategic location to cater to the needs of the Pasakha industrial area and also the trade requirements of northern and interior parts of Bhutan.

Heavy equipment, machineries, and transportation used for the construction will be the major sources of noise. It is stated that there will be an increase in traffic and thereby in traffic noise impacts on the receptors near the access road.

The proposed site is surrounded by the Barsa Chhu and Bhalujhora Chhu, which are seasonal in nature. It is anticipated that there will be an induced impact on the aquatic life, if storm water carrying silt and other construction waste, domestic waste generated from the proposed labor camps, runoff from the cut and fill operations drain into the river.

MB Subba