The deadline to commission the 720MW Mangdechhu project has been pushed to September and October from June 30.

Project’s Managing Director, A K Mishra said that shortage of labour and financial constraint on part of the contractor has led to the delay.

“The project has been pumping money to continue the work,” he said. As for the labour, he said workers find better opportunities in India. “Earlier Jaypee had 3,500 workers and now there are hardly 1,000.”

Project officials said that wage contractors pay the labourers the same amount that’s paid in India. “Expenses are higher in Bhutan including the call rate. Workers have to work in extreme weather conditions in winter and involves risk,” one official said.

Despite the challenges, A K Mishra said the project has achieved tremendous progress in last few months.

For instance, of the 13.5KM headrace tunnel, 8KM of concreting has been completed to date.

Civil works in dam is almost complete. The last 1m concreting, amounting to 23,000 cubic meter concrete is due for completion by May end along with all civil works. Total concreting of dam constitutes, 483,000 cubic meters.

As of yesterday, the floodgates were being installed. The executive engineer of the dam, Kuldeep Kumar Sharma said that by August 31,  the hydro mechanical works at the dam will be completed and this entails completions of dam as all underground works are completed.

“At the current rate of progress, we will complete the dam few days before schedule,” Kuldeep Kumar said.

In the powerhouse, two generating units are ready to receive water discharge. To save time, the managing director said that testing of equipment in the powerhouse would be done by charging the pressure shaft with water from nearby sources.

“By September end everything will be ready,” he said.

However, the final test, engineers said is tedious work, as all tunnels and shaft have to be filled with water gradually. “If the water is released in one go, a catastrophe will occur. So we have to fill one chamber at a time and evacuate the air that is inside the tunnel,” said the superintendent engineer of the dam.  “The entire process can take two months.”

Filling the pressure shaft alone will require 17M cubic meters of water.

With the day lighting of the tunnel in October last year, the project has overcome the critical components, said officials.

Once commissioned, the project will generate about 3B units of energy and the expected revenue earning is Nu 7.5B a year. After loan repayment, the country will get to keep around Nu 3.5B a year in its coffer. This is considering the export tariff at Nu 2.50 a unit.

Tshering Dorji |  Trongsa