Indian road to Bhutan plant by April 2008

Indian road to Bhutan plant by April 2008
Published: 17 December 2007

The two-decade-old project to construct Bhutan’s biggest cement plant on the Indo-Bhutan border has finally been revived. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has asked the Ministry of Shipping Road transport & Highways to push up road connectivity towards the plant. India is already assisting with the construction of the Indo-Bhutan Friendship Project, the Nu 5,170-million Dungsam cement plant at Nganglam on the Indo-Bhutan border. While the ministry has already constructed a national highway standard road along 29 km from Pathshala in Assam towards Nganglam, it will soon start work to build a new 9-km road leading right up to the Indo-Bhutan border where the construction work pertaining to the cement plant is about to begin. MEA is also helping fund construction of another 25 km road from Nganglam to Gyelposhing on Bhutan’s side to improve access to the cement plant and this is likely to be ready by April, 2008. "This will be the shortest road link between Bhutan and India.  
 A 38-km two-lane highway with paved shoulders from Pathshala off NH 31 in Assam to Nganglam on the Bhutan border is part of the Special Accelerated Road Development Programme for the North East (SARDP-NE). Work is already on across some 29 km of the existing road, there is no road at all for the last 9 km towards Bhutan. Insurgency in this area had made it very difficult to carry out construction here earlier, but we hope to start work soon," said a senior official. "This is known as NH 152 and the Rs 125 crore worth road project will make it a 30-minute ride from Assam to Bhutan. MEA has been pushing for this project for some time now as it will provide connectivity to the cement plant on the border and will help in export of cement into the north-east in a big way. That is why instead of a lower category road, we will construct a NH-like road," added the official.

About 700 trucks will ply along the Nganglam highway after the actual commissioning of the plant pushing up the economy of the entire south-east Bhutan area along with creation of a major export corridor into north-eastern India. The long awaited project came to a standstill in January 2001 when terrorists targeted Bhutanese vehicles and the road to the project site - from Pathshala to Nganglam - was officially sealed.

The project, whose production capacity is estimated at 1Mta, will be the biggest cement plant in Bhutan - almost two times bigger than the existing largest plant the Penden Cement Authority Limited in Gomtu, Samtse. With an initial capacity of 3,000tpd, it is expected that the project will generate about Nu 3.7bn turnover per year against 1500t productivity by the Penden plant. The project was first conceived in the 1980s after the Geological Survey of India found vast limestone deposits at the confluence of the Kuring and Marung rivers in the Nganglam region in 1964. The Government of India’s commitment will be Rs 300 crore towards the project and the same will be disbursed in two financial years -2007-8 and 2008-9.