Neten Dorji | Trashiyangtse

With evaluation of the techno-commercial bids for the main work, contracts for the main civil works, including the construction of the dam, headrace tunnel and the powerhouse of the 600MW Kholongchu Hydro Energy Project (KHEL) in Trashiyangtse is expected to begin by the end of 2020 or early next year.

“No time was lost in upping this momentum,” said a senior Bhutanese officer. “Despite restrictions posed by the pandemic, we completed the evaluation of techno-commercial tenders and are currently working on financial evaluation.”

The officer said that over 2,500 workers would be engaged during peak construction periods. “A bulk of the labour requirement will involve those for contractors, but they are to employ Bhutanese first.”

He, however, added that there was labour shortage in the country. “Since several categories of skilled workers are required in the project, labour shortage might have to be met from outside,” he said.

The two project implementers, Druk Green Power Corporation and Indian firm Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited will be contributing the equity portion of the financing. The debt portion is expected to be available by 2021.

According to the officer, KHEL will facilitate with government authorities and relevant agencies on foreign labour recruitments.

“With pandemic situation, we are taking up the issue separately with ‘Covid-19’ task forces,” he said. “We are working closely with DGPC and other relevant agencies to ensure the recruitment of labourers now and in the future within the parameter of the ‘Covid-19 norms and protocols.”

He said the on-going lockdown in India would directly affect movement, procurement and transportation of construction inputs of the projects.  “Since the project of such scale will require frequent crossborder movement of labourers, materials and other services, the compliance to decontaminate materials and quarantine people could lead to delays.”

KHEL has spent Nu 3.3 billion as of June 2020.

The majority of expenses, exceeding Nu 2.00 billion, were made on the infrastructure such as access roads, bridges, site offices, colonies, office complexes and other assets.

Construction of the project colony in Doksum is underway.

The Nu 54.82 billion project excluding the costs for transmission systems is expected to be completed by 2025.