We are told that a clear path for the trouble-stricken 1,200MW Punatsangchhu project will be ready within days. This has been a long time coming. Time has come for us to decide on the future of one of the largest hydroelectric project in the country today.
All these seem to come from the hard lessons we have had to learn. Hydropower is increasingly being debated among our policymakers.
Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma, who is also the chairman of the project, said that a “holistic” report on the issues related to the dam and sliding was finalised.
What we can do at best is make some changes to the original plan. Because there has been heavy investment in the project, its completion has to be our focus. The sooner it happens the better.
And then we should have clear and solid future plans because Bhutan has arrived at a time when we should not only think seriously about what development models and initiatives have done us good in the past, but also begin charting a roadmap to steer our economy in keeping with new opportunities and challenges at our doors.
As a landlocked country, we have many challenges. And argument today is that if we focused on half the challenges facing the country, we could easily turn them into opportunities. We are beginning to talk about a new economic roadmap for the country.
Hydropower has done us well but times has changed and we need to explore alternative sources of growth and financing. Energy demands are changing across the regions due to the increasing effects of climate change. Hydropower could become redundant.
According to a World Bank report, sitting on hydropower alone for economic growth on which rests much else can prove to be dangerous for Bhutan. Looking beyond is critically necessary.
So what can we do?
Invest in ICT and STEM education. We may be a landlocked nation, but that should not be a problem. Right and timely investment in ICT has the potential to expand markets. Bhutan can capitalise on both.
We have the right environment and so investment in these sectors should begin in earnest.