The government is not in a rush to build new hydropower projects, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said in the National Assembly yesterday.

At the Question Hour, opposition leader (OL) Pema Gyamtsho (PhD) said the government had informed the parliament earlier that construction of Kholongchhu hydropower project had begun but the government has failed to even finalise the concessional agreement.

The OL said that hydropower projects are not only the main resource for the country but also a symbol of friendship between Bhutan and India. “The government had failed to start a single major hydropower project during its term in office,” he said.

Lyonchhen said that the country had to be mindful of how much it could handle given that big projects are being implemented.

He said when the country was facing economic problems like the Rupee crunch, experts had pointed out hydropower projects as one of the reasons. “We should not hurry when it comes to implementing hydropower projects,” he said.

Lyonchhen said that hydropower resources are assets that not only belong to the government but all Bhutanese. The government, he said, was careful not to repeat the mistakes that occurred in other projects while implementing the 600-megawatt Trashiyangtse-based project.

He said works have already started including the construction of roads and bridges. A contract worth Nu 511 million has been awarded to Bhutan Power Corporation Ltd for construction of a power station and wiring.

Most of the remaining works have been designed and are ready for awarding to contractors. According to him, a total of Nu 1.55 billion has been spent on the project.

“Most of the pre-construction works have been completed,” the prime minister said. He said that since the Kholongchhu project was a Joint Venture between SJVN (India) and Druk Green (Bhutan), a concessional agreement has to be signed.

However, he said that the signing had to be halted when the Indian government released its Guidelines on Cross Border Trade of Electricity in December 2016. He said the two sides are in discussion to resolve issues that have emerged with the guidelines.

“We don’t want to lose any benefit from Kholongchhu project because of the guidelines,” he said. “It’s true that we have not started major projects. However, the Nikachhu hydropower project has started, while a detailed project report for the construction of Nyera Amari hydroelectric project is ongoing.”

The government, he said is implementing major projects, including the Punatsangchhu and Mangdechhu projects that the former government had started. Although they were supposed to be completed by now, the projects have encountered technical glitches due to lack of a proper detailed project report, he said.

Lyonchhen said 83 percent of the works on Punatshangchhu I and 72 percent on Punatsangchhu II have been completed to date. He said that 90 percent of the works on Mangdechhu project, which did not encounter many problems, have been completed.

MB Subba