Dechen Dolkar 

The detailed project report (DPR) for construction of a barrage instead of a dam at the Punatsangchhu Hydroelectric Project I (PI) will be completed at the end of this month.

While the DPR for the barrage was to be submitted in June 2021, the submission was postponed to December 2021 and then to February 2022. An independent third-party study has shown that a barrage is feasible around 2.5km upstream from the present dam location. Third-party reviews were done by three different agencies from Europe in 2019 and 2020.

The decision to construct the barrage came after the right bank of the dam experienced multiple landslides. The project witnessed its first slide in July 2013, followed by a slide in August 2016, and another in January 2019.

The project DPR is being done by the international agency called Stucky of Switzerland at a cost of Nu 150 million.”

Stucky recommended further detailed geophysical and geotechnical investigations for design and cost optimisation through specialised agencies, especially covering the barrage footprint project components.

Minister for economic affairs, Loknath Sharma, said the DPR was delayed due to specialised geotechnical works that required the inclusion of in-depth studies to optimise the barrage potential and update results from river basins.

Lyonpo said the pandemic delayed the study because specialists could not come as scheduled. “To do the study on the river basin, there was only one agent in India. It was very challenging to get them.”

He said that to optimise the maximum benefit from the barrage, some detailed work has to be done in the river basin, as the barrage is a specialised work, particularly in the geotechnical area.

Lyonpo said that it was supposed to finish in December 2021 but due to the surge in the Covid-19 virus it could not be finished. “We are very confident that it will finish by the end of February.”

There are around 580 workers with various agencies and PI contractors.

The managing director of PHPA-I, NC Bansal said that after getting the required approvals from the task force in Wangduephodrang, around 325 people including supervisory staff of PHPA are working in the Power House Complex.

NC Bansal said that most of the officials at the dam construction were transferred to other ongoing work for the project. The bare minimum manpower of the dam site is presently engaged in monitoring of right bank slopes and resolution of various disputes or contractual matters for the amicable closure of the contract.

The monthly expenditure in salaries and utilities is currently around Nu 2.3million at the PI.