Review: The delay in implementation of the Punatshangchu-II hydroelectric project is likely to obstruct the economic affairs ministry from achieving one of its annual performance agreement (APA) targets signed with the government.

The change in the shear zone near the dam has resulted in increased work. The excavation work was again affected by flooding that occurred in July last year. While the de-watering and cleaning of pit was completed on August 21 last year, the excavation of the shear zone resumed eight days later. So in view of this, dam concreting, which was scheduled to commence from July last year had to be rescheduled to July this year.

“The delay is attributed to force majeure and therefore no de-bottlenecking request are made,” stated the mid-year APA review document. However, the ministry has asserted that it will try to meet the APA requirement, which is to complete 80 percent of the works to achieve an ‘excellent’ remark. It would result in a ‘poor’ remark if only 72 percent of the works are implemented.

Economic affairs secretary Dasho Yeshey Wangdi said going by the current progress only 73 percent would be achieved, meaning the APA result would be somewhere between ‘fair’ and ‘poor.’

Lyonchoen Tsheirng Tobgay, who chaired the APA mid-year review, said that there is hardly any work done because 72 percent is reflected as a poor result.

“The ministry will try to meet the target set. However, in the event it cannot be met, the ministry should not be penalised for failing to meet the target,” the mid-year review document stated.

While this has been reflected as a risk from achieving the APA targets, going by the presentation it seems all the three major hydropower projects are under risk in the milieu of the APA the economic affairs ministry signed with the government.

Likewise the ministry has also reflected the same remark for Punatshangchhu-I.

On August 12 last year, a slope failure occurred downstream of the dam axis resulting in suspension of piling works and due to safety requirements, the piling works had to be suspended for 11 days.

The remaining piling works would be completed only after completion of additional stabilisation works, which has resulted in the delay.

Unlike the Punatshangchhu-II, even with these contingencies 81 percent of the works have been completed. In the remaining part of the fiscal year, it is expected that 84 percent of the works will have been completed.

This means that the APA achievement would reflect a ‘very good’ status. The Prime Minister found no issues with that although it was reflected as a risk.

With regard to the Mangdechhu project, the diversion of the Trongsa-Gelephu highway through the head race tunnel (HRT) of the project after the collapse of the Dzongkhalum bridge led to stoppage of concrete lining and excavation of the HRT.

Provided that the Kholongchhu and Tangsibji hydropower projects release their apportioned cost, the transmission lines would also be completed by this year. The progress of 93 percent is achievable as the works in the dam and powerhouse would be achieved before the targeted date.

Another APA target of clearing the joint venture (JV) project for implementation, Chamkharchhu-I, the APA stated that April 2017 would be the ideal date to reflect an ‘excellent’ remark.

For this to materialise, Dasho Yeshey Wangdi said that the concession agreement for Kholongchhu is necessary since it would set the tone for the rest of the JV projects.

Since the Government of India came up with a guideline on cross-border electricity trading, the JV projects are confronted with some issues that the government should clarify with the counterparts.

While the issue would be taken to the authority meeting of Punatsangchhu I and II, the secretary said the government should also pursue for approvals. The Druk Green and the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) is also preparing to sign the agreement.

The Prime Minister, referring to all the APA targets said that there is no harm in revising the targets that could not be achieved because of some unforeseen factors. However this too, he said should be studied as several stakeholders are involved in achieving a single target in some cases.

Since the APA is currently self-assessed, Lyonchoen said it is important to give an honest assessment, as it would later be assessed by a task force.

The mid-year review of the APA, meanwhile appeared to lack coordination. This was because some ministries, for instance the health ministry had no indicators at risk. The health minister later clarified that indicators marked ‘good’ and ‘very good’ are not reflected as at risk. “Should we reflect those under ‘very good’ and ‘good’ status as risk there would be around seven targets,” Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk said.

Most of the ministries had tried to achieve ‘excellent’ status and reflected the rest as at risk.

Tshering Dorji