The government and the Opposition are on the same page when it concerns the progress of Phunatshangchhu hydroelectric project I (PHPA I).

Foreign minister, Dr Tandi Dorji during the recent press conference said that the cost at PHPA I has escalated three-folds. “I would like to agree that we should make a formal decision to see whether we should continue with this project,” he said.

However, the minister said that discontinuing the works would also have major financial implications. “There have already been huge investments. Almost 60 to 80 percent of the work is completed,” he said. “If we undo it also, so much investment would have gone to waste. So we have to review to see if we can get some clear timelines with very little escalation in the cost. Then I think it is in our best interest to continue with it.”

In an earlier press conference, Opposition Leader, Pema Gyamtsho (PhD) also expressed concerns on the issue. He said that several experts including those from Europe have been consulted on the project.

He said that if the experts are not able to say anything definite or guarantee on the geological stability of the PHPA I project, it would be better to hold the project at the current stage instead of spending millions and billions more only to find out that the project would not be useful.

Pema Gyamtsho said the Opposition has supported the National Council’s recommendation to conduct a through study by experts and that the government should take a decision based on their recommendations.

He said that no one could be blamed for the current issue, including the people who planned it and those who initiated the project.   “No one can know what’s happening 30 or 50 metres below the surface,” he said. “The very term geological surprise, means that it is a surprise.”

However, if there are more surprises ahead, the Opposition leader said that perhaps it would be better to discontinue the project. There already is a mounting debt and pumping in more money in a project which has been associated with several issues would only cost the country and its people, he added.

The construction of the PHPA I started in November 2008 and was supposed to complete by November 2016. Delays mainly caused by major landslides on multiple occasions and stabilisation measures on the right bank of the river have today pushed the commissioning date to 2024.

The project cost has escalated from Nu 35 billion (B) to Nu 93.7B.

Meanwhile, the foreign minister said that the government is confident to complete PHPA II project before the end of their tenure. “At the earliest, the target is 2021. But definitely by 2022,” he said. “That we’ll do. As our Prime Minister has repeatedly said, he has put a huge responsibility on the economic affairs minister.”

Lyonpo said that the government is working closely with the Indian counterparts. “These issues are also being taken up by the Indian government,” he said. “They are also committed to ensuring that at least the PHPA projects are completed. We are correcting and taking many decisions to make sure that it is completed on time.”

 Younten Tshedup