Once there was hope, now there is only despair and desolation

Neten Dorji | Doksum

With hope of income opportunities, many residents and outsiders invested in the constructions of buildings and other businesses.

However, uncertainty over the construction of Kholongchu Hydroelectric Project Limited(KHEL) have left the people of Trashityangtse in a uncomfortable situation.

Locals have been talking about the project for decades. They expected that the project would enhance their income opportunities.  Karma Yueden, hotelier in the new Doksum town, said she relied on KHEL for opportunities. She sold her vehicles and other properties to construct the house. “I bought land here in 2018 and spent over Nu 10 million to build a house thinking that I would earn income from rentals. Now my all hopes on the KHEL project is over,” she said.

“The most productive time of my life has gone waiting for this project to kick off,” says Chenpo,71, of Doksum.

He claims that most of the people near the downstream area have sacrificed their land to the project.

Kezang Dema, who runs a grocery shop in a new Doksum town, said it is difficult to earn even a few hundreds in a day. “I came here to operate a general shop as the construction work would bring a lot of people. But it looks like I will be too old when it is implemented,” she smiled.

A hotelier, Geta Mongar, shared similar sentiments. She told Kuensel that her family began operating a hotel hoping that the project would bring more income to her family.  “I won’t be able to afford the rent this time. There is hardly any customer now,” she said.

Gyeltshen, a businessman, said that he would operate business for a few months. “If business doesn’t run well, the only option is to move out of the town and start a new business in other dzongkhags.

Not only in the town areas, villagers of Tongzhang, Rabtey, Khamdang, and Koncholing also have lost hope.

Wangchuk Dorji, a villager from Rabtey Pam, took a loan Nu 0.8M from the bank. “I am now worried how I can repay the loan,” he said.  Villagers say that the long wait has taken all their excitement with the drop of joint-venture project.  “People talked about the prospects of the project,” said a 50-year-old resident, Dema from Rabtey.

Residents say that the KHEL promised to provide a new school, hospital and other facilities to residents of Doksum new town.

A resident, Karma Drukgyel, said there has not been a concrete progress so far.

The 600MW Kholongchu project commenced in 2015 and was supposed to be completed in 2020. It was expected to generate 2,568M units of electricity annually.

KHEL is the first-ever joint venture hydropower project in Bhutan between Druk Green Power Corporation and India’s SJVN.