Phurpa Lhamo

Public debt has increased by Nu 28 billion (B) in the last two fiscal years, of which Nu 16.2B is hydropower debt. Hydropower debt constitutes 58 percent of the total.

The Nu 16.2B hydropower loan was disbursed to Mangdechhu Hydroelectric Project (Nu 2.3B), Punatsangchhu Hydroelectric Project II (Nu 7.5B), Punatsangchhu Hydroelectric Project I (Nu 2.2B) and Nikachu Hydroelectric Project (Nu 4.2B).

As of September 30 this year, Bhutan’s public debt stood at Nu 223B. Of the total, Nu 8.3B was domestic debt and more than Nu 214B external debt.

Finance Minister Namgay Tshering at the National Assembly yesterday stated that of the total external debt, hydropower debt constituted around 75 percent.

Because hydropower debt is self-liquidating in nature, Lyonpo Namgay Tshering said that hydropower debt should not be a concern. “The loans we have with the Indian government are mostly hydropower related. For the next three years, we will continue to borrow until the hydropower projects complete.”

Until 2023, the government would continue to loan money from agencies such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB), Lyonpo Namgay Tshering said.

Bhutan’s non-hydropower debt is around Nu 53B.

Lyonpo Namgay Tshering said that of 25 percent non-hydropower debt, Nu 7B was the money borrowed during the rupee crisis in 2012 and 2013.

MHPA implements recommendations

In accordance with the recommendations made by multidisciplinary-level surveys, the Mangdechhu Hydroelectric Project Authority (MHPA) in Trongsa has today installed inclinometers to collect scientific and geological data. The project has drilled areas to further understand and monitor the area and have also allocated budget to improve the roads.

Visible cracks and landslides in Kuengarabten area near the project has today left the residents worried.

Speaking at the National Assembly yesterday, Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma said that around seven recommendations were made by the experts following surveys on the damage caused to various households near the project.

Lyonpo added that the project has begun to implement the recommendations made by the experts.

Nu 64 million (M) has also been disbursed to the Department of Roads by the project to repair the drainage system and to improve the poor road condition at the project site.

Further, Lyonpo also ensured that if the Kuengarabten Nunnery in Trongsa needs relocation, the project and the dzongkhag would render help as required.

Around 40 households, including the Kuengarabten Nunnery, received Nu 3.8M due to the damage caused by the project, Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said.

He further added that the geological data collected until today showed no major risk in the future.

Lyonpo said that the surveys conducted also showed no immediate link between the project’s headrest tunnel and the cracks caused in Kuengarabten as the tunnel is around 200 metres away.

“But when heavy vehicles ply on the road and blasting are done in huge project such as this, there will be some difficulties. Today, water table issues are also there. The land, which has been disturbed, also needs to settle and the settling time is around one to two years. So there would be some geological issues, but there won’t be issue in long term,” Lyonpo said.

The surveys have also found that the earthquake and rain in the past has also contributed to the cracks.

Lyonpo said that while the damage wasn’t caused entirely due to activities at the project, it can’t be denied that the damage occurred after the project work began.