MB Subba

Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma yesterday held a meeting with officials from Druk Green Power Corporation and the ongoing hydropower projects, including Punatsangchhu I and II through video conferencing to discuss the possibilities of reopening critical works in a self-contained mode.

He told Kuensel that the meeting discussed the possibility of isolating workers for carrying out isolated works that can be done during the lockdown by following the Covid-19 safety protocols. A few critical works that need to be done daily, he said, are being done even today.

The projects, he said, were not mixed with any community and that he was of the view that the critical project activities should be continued.

Lyonpo said that the projects would submit a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), which will be submitted to the national Covid-19 taskforce for approval. 

The projects, he said, would also submit lists of works that were doable by following the Covid-19 safety measures.

The tendering work for the Kholongchhu project, he said, had been done and that the project needed to go ahead with the evaluation of bids. 

“It’s not about starting all the work immediately. But we are planning how to start some of the critical works in isolated mode and bring construction raw materials for the projects if they have been stranded on the way,” he said.

He said that the government wanted to ensure that there would be no Covid-19 cases in the hydropower projects. However, he added that the works would involve people only from within the project area and that the projects would not bring workers from other places.

“So far so good as no cases have been reported from the projects. I am also thinking of testing some of the project workers,” Lyonpo said.

PI developments

On the 1,200MW Punatsangchhu I, which has issues at the dam site, the economic affairs minister said that two companies—Fitchtner of Germany and Bernard Ingenieure from Austria—were studying the problems and that the companies would suggest a way forward for the government.

Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said that the government had hired the consultants for independent views and suggestions based on scientific grounds. “The problem has been going on for too long now and we can’t wait any further,” he said.

He said that he was hoping to establish scientific reasons for taking a final decision on the fate of the project by December.

The construction of PHPA I commenced in 2008 and it was supposed to be completed by 2016. 

However, due to sliding on the right bank at the dam site, which happened in July 2013, the commissioning of the project has been delayed.

The joint venture agreement between the government and the Kholongchhu Hydro Energy Limited (KHEL) was signed in June this year in Thimphu. The Trashiyangtse-based 600MW run-of-the-river project is expected to generate about 2,568.88 million (M) units annually.