January 2018 News

'Dry Port Proposed In Budget To Boost Kashmir Exports'

20 January 2018
Greater Kashmir
Saqib Malik

Srinagar: Initiated in 2005, the proposal of setting up an Inland Container Depot (ICD) or dry port in Kashmir has got a new lease of life as Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu during his budget speech announced that state government in a joint venture with Dubai Government will construct two such facilities in Srinagar and Jammu cities. While 92 kanals of land was earlier earmarked by state government for ICD at Electronic Complex, Rangreth which was occupied by the army till 2007, the government is now planning to set-up this facility at Ompura in Budgam, highly placed sources said. 'The Rangreth land was handed back to SIDCO in September 2007 and was cleared of vegetation and some land cutting work was also undertaken in order to prepare the site for soil investigation. Subsequently, from 2008 some buildings and weigh bridges were constructed but the dry port at Electronic Complex never became operational,' said former president of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), Mubeen Shah. Shah, who had played a vital role in setting-up of the ICD at that time, said getting custom clearance for a dry port has been the most challenging task. 'But this time around, understanding of the state government with Government of Dubai for constructing the dry port is a huge achievement. I reckon there won't be any such bottlenecks as the dry port involves a crucial joint venture especially involving Dubai which shares a friendly relation with India presently,' Shah said. KCCI has been a part of apex committee on exports overlooking setting of the ICD. The committee formed by the state government has the chief secretary as its chairman. KCCI present president, Javed Ahmad Tenga told Greater Kashmir that recently announced dry port will provide a boost to exports from the valley. 'Almost 95 percent of exports from the Valley are routed through sea for which our exporters have to use dry ports at Delhi or the Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Mumbai. The difficulties in getting our products containerised in states outside was a taxing task for exporters,' Tenga said. 'But we hope the proposed Dry Port is helpful as export containers are expected to move from Srinagar to Udhampur rail head and then to Mumbai directly after custom clearance at our ICD,' Tenga said. He said compared to present 15 days of time taken for exports to reach Mumbai port, completion of formalities and containerizing at the dry port in Srinagar will bring down carriage time to 3-5 days. While Union Ministry of Industries and Commerce had given its approval for setting up of ICD at Rangreth, a team of custom officials from Chandigarh had also paid a visit to the earlier proposed site at Rangreth and suggested some value additions. However, sources said last minute 'hiccups' from the customs had put brakes on the Rangreth ICD. 'The Project Engineering Consultant M-S KransQb had submitted the conceptual designs and cost estimation of the civil works which have been authenticated and vetted by Joint Development Commissioner (Works) J&K Government. The dry port was even leased out but could never take off,' said a highly placed source. . A detailed project report framed in 2005 envisaged the project cost of the ICD at Rs 14.60 crore. 'However, due to escalation in material and labour cost and also the addition of other requisite facilities like the proposed agro-fresh warehouse at the ICD, the revised cost of the project was Rs 21.35 crore as of November 2007,' sources said. The recently announced ICD is expected to function as Dry Port so that exports from Kashmir and Ladakh become hassle-free. 'If implemented properly the Dry Port can be a huge benefit. Besides the proximity of ICD site to the Airport, it can cater to air cargo as well,' said a local exporter of handicrafts.