Neten Dorji | Trashiyangtse

With civil like the construction of the dam, headrace tunnel and powerhouse awarded to two different companies for the 600MW Kholongchhu Hydro Electric Project Ltd (KHEL), the project is likely to kick off from April this year.

An Indian company, Jaiprakash Associates Limited, popularly known as Jaypee Group, was awarded the constructions of the 95m dam and its complex at the cost of Nu 9.72 billion (B) and the construction of the powerhouse and its components at the cost of Nu 6.21B.

A joint venture of a Mumbai-based private company, Valecha Engineering Private Ltd and Rigsar Construction got the work to construct the headrace tunnel worth Nu 4.346B.

The contractors have three months to mobilise materials and labour to begin the work.

According to a project official, Construction Development Corporation Limited (CDCL) and other Bhutanese contractors would also execute some portion of the main work.

Joint Managing Director, Kencho Dorji, said Kholongchhu project is a run of the river project with a stream diversion arrangement at about four kilometres downstream of the dam, a scheme to utilize the Jablangchhu stream. This is unique to this project in that such scheme is embedded during the construction phase.

“The stream will be diverted into the headrace tunnel for additional power generation during the lean flow period.” 

“This for a high head plant would translate to about 26 to 33MW,” he said. 

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

Kencho Dorji said that contractors should recruit Bhutanese to the extent possible. “They will also be mindful of the safety training or orientations, proper housing facilities, and obviously better wages and other payouts are expected.”

“At present, foreign labourers, as are all inward travellers, have to stay 21 days in quarantine and so almost 30 days are spent outside work sites,” he said. “I expect once the post-covid normalcy sets in, restrictions ease, we may truly say the problem is over.”

The project is expected to generate about 2,568.88 million (M) units annually.  The sale of power will follow two routes, 30 percent of the net energy on the power exchange and the remaining 70 percent through a long-term purchase agreement.

Work on the construction of the dam, headrace tunnel and powerhouse has been delayed as the two governments had to finalise tariff determination on a long-term power purchasing agreement (PPA) before signing the agreement.

The project is being financed through a debt-equity ratio of 70:30 with 50-50 equity holdings between the DGPC and the SJVNL.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation stone for the project during his visit to Bhutan on June 16, 2014.  His Royal Highness the Gyaltshab, Prince Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, graced the ground-breaking ceremony on September 18, 2015.

The project, which has spent Nu 3.3B until now, is expected to complete by November 2025.

Meanwhile, the project is expected to benefit local residents in Trashiyangtse.

People say they would benefit from the newly built access roads and bridges.

Project officials said they hire vehicles, mostly from the community.  “Project employees and workers would, directly and indirectly, benefit the community through rental income, and boost commercial activities.”