Electrification of Laya likely to be delayed further

The electrification project that began in 2012 is already delayed by three years

Electricity: The remote highlanders of Laya gewog rejoiced after it was announced at the recent midterm review that the gewog would receive electricity by June this year.

However, unknown to the highlanders, transmission lines and poles at the project site were damaged last week which could cause a further delay.

The effort to provide Laya with electricity began in 2012.

When workers of the contractor, Chogyal construction, went to resume the electrification works, transmission lines and poles that were completed earlier were found to have been damaged.

Following which, the site engineer of the electrification work along with the Gasa dzongdag, local leaders and National Environment Commission officials visited the site for inspection on April 4.

Site engineer Namgay Dorji attributed the damage to the second phase of the road construction work to Laya. About 2.5km of transmission lines and 28 poles located around 18km from Gasa were damaged.

“The entire transmission line will have to be restored again,” Namgay Dorji said. “As the damage was caused by the road construction works, we’ve written to the dzongkhag.”

Namgay Dorji said that the electrification works within the gewog area were completed save for some lines that were destroyed by snowfall, which also requires repair. “As of now, about 85 percent of the electrification works has been completed,” he said.

Namgay Dorji also said that the remaining works including restoration of the recent damages would be possible only if the contractor deploys 20 to 25 more workers. Currently, there are only six workers deployed at the site. “We have informed the contractor to bring more workers and to speed up the work,” he said.

It has been more than three years since the electrification works to connect the 200 households in Laya to the electricity grid started. The contractor was awarded the work for Nu 13.6 million. It was supposed to have been completed in a year.

Bhutan Power Corporation’s (BPC) deputy manager of rural electrification and construction, Jigme Sherub said the contractor was suspended for three months and given a time extension of 127 days given extreme weather conditions, after he failed to complete the work in one year.

“When the contractor failed to complete the works even after the time extension, he was imposed a fine as per the contract term, which is 10 percent of the total cost,” Jigme Sherub said.

However, BPC officials pointed out that the contractor also faced issues such as shortage of manpower and workers not able to work in extreme weather conditions. There were also incidents where completed transmission works were damaged by natural calamities like snowfall and landslide on various locations.

Laya Gup Kinley Dorji said when the electrification work began the Layaps were excited and worked hard to transport the materials from Gasa to Laya.  Most equipment was transported on horses, for which they were paid Nu 400 a day per horse. Helicopters were also used to transport some of the equipment. “When the contractor failed to pay the workers and the porters, people refused to work,” he said.

The issue was even raised during the recent mid-term review where people informed Lyonchoen of not being paid by the contractor. The contractor owes about Nu 400,000 in labour charges.

The list of people to whom the contractor owes money has been submitted to the prime minister’s office and the issue is being followed up on.

Jigme Sherub said that as the issue is between the contractor and the people, BPC is not involved in the picture. BPC could intervene by paying from the contractor’s final bill, which would be possible only if the contract is not terminated.

Hoping to receive electricity in 2012 itself, many Layaps started to buy electric household items since then. However the wait was longer than they expected. Currently, the majority of the houses use solar electricity that is not a reliable source of energy, many layaps said.

Dawa Gyelmo

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