Bhutan’s thriving boulder export business often encounters issues as truckers have to transit through India.
To address the inconvenience, the economic affairs ministry is exploring additional entry-exit points via waterways and railways.
Responding to Dewathang-Gomdar Member of Parliament (MP) Ugyen Dorji, Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma said, to address the inconvenience, the economic affairs ministry is exploring additional entry-exit points via waterways and railways.
Today, Bhutan exports boulders from Dhubri riverport in Assam to Narayanganj in Bangladesh, which according to the Lyonpo, was not enough. He said that it would have been ideal if the boulders could be exported via air, railways, and waterways to Bangladesh.
Lyonpo said that the government was in talks with the Indian government to explore inland waterways to export the boulders.
During Lyonpo’s recent visit to Assam and Meghalaya, the ministers discussed harnessing the full potential of waterways connectivity by utilising Jogighopa and Pandu in Assam.
The minister informed that a few additional entries and exit points between India and Bangladesh were identified: Chilmari, Narayanganj, Gopalganj and Sonahat port in Bangladesh and railway link between Haldibari and Chilahati.
Besides, Lyonpo said that after the completion of the reconstruction of National Highway 51 at Kokrajhar in India, the travel distance would be shortened by 70km from Gelephu.
MP Ugyen Dorji said that despite numerous discussions on the boulder export, the issue persists. He said that the boulder business brought Nu 4.5 billion (B) to the country besides employing a large number of people. He said that the truckers ferrying the boulders are stopped at a border area between India and Bangladesh called Changabandra for weeks. Each trucker has to pay fines and taxes amounting to Nu 80,000. “This is harassment to the truckers, discouraging them from ferrying the boulders.”
The export of boulders reduced significantly in 2020 and 2021, earning around Nu 2B due to the pandemic and export issues.
Although the ministry tried to address the issue, Lyonpo said that due to different movement restrictions across neighbouring countries, it became difficult to meet with border coordination committees and discuss the issue.
There are issues with domestic exporters too.
Lyonpo added that there were issues of overloading and not abiding by the state’s rules, citing the example of Indian drivers ferrying Bhutan’s boulders without a licence.
The export of boulders, he said, was not well organised.