Differences in opinion hold work at the PHPA I

Phurpa Lhamo  | Wangdue

The Punatsangchhu Hydroelectric Project I (PHPA I) is yet to receive a report to resolve issues related to the dam and the sliding on the dam’s right bank.

PI’s consultant Centre Water Commission (CWC) filed its report on strengthening measures in October last year and the design in December. The National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC), a third party who reviewed the report, had differing views on the report and the design.

The works for dam construction are hampered because there is no resolution to the problems of the sliding area on the right bank of the dam site.

The representatives from the two parties met with the project’s technical committee at the 28th technical coordination committee (TCC) meeting yesterday. However, there was no resolution.

According to the PI’s joint managing director Karma Tshewang, the third-party NHPC had earlier pointed out flaws in the design stating that the factor of safety wasn’t enough.

He said that in the meeting held in January this year, the two agencies were told to come to a resolution. “But they haven’t reconciled,” he said, adding that Covid-19 hampered the process.

The management yesterday asked the two parties to come to a resolution and present a solution next week. The management will decide on a date for the next TCC today. TCC meetings are held when necessary.

Apart from the issue of safety factors, the NHPC review also recommended the management to not go ahead with the dam construction and to build a barrage.  

Karma Tshewang said that due to lack of expertise, a committee consisting of four members was formed to look at the expects of a barrage and a dam. If built the barrage is to be at 820 meters upstream from the dam.

The management and government have today raised their concerns and issues to the two parties and asked to look into the safety and on the stabilisation measures on the right bank of the dam.

Representatives from PHPA I, Department of Geology and Mines, the Bhutan Power Corporation Limited, CWC, and NHPC attended the videoconference.

The right bank witnessed three slides until today—the first in July 2013, another in August 2016 and the recent one in January last year.

The landslide last year had taken away an excavator and injured the operator.

The problematic area also led to delay of the construction of the dam.

While the overall project has been 86.66 percent complete, the dam is 69.87 percent complete. Works of cofferdam, diversion tunnels, desilting chambers and major exaction of dam are completed. Work on concreting the dam remains.

The project, which began in 2008 was initially supposed to complete in 2016. The project is today expected to complete by March 2025. 

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