Dechen Dolkar 

The country would forgo a gross revenue of Nu 17.6B due to the delay in commissioning of the 1,020 megawatt (MW) Punatsangchhu Hydroelectric Project II (PII) and 118MW Nikachu Hydroelectric project.

PII was supposed to be commissioned by mid of this year and Nikachu by 2021, but the pandemic, labour shortage and geological issues hampered the progress of the two projects.

Both projects are expected to be commissioned only in 2023. PII is set to complete by July 2023 and Nikachu by the onset of monsoon 2023.

The minister for the economic affairs ministry, Loknath Sharma, said deployment of foreign workers has been slowed down since the outbreak of coronavirus in the country and that hampered the work progress severely.

“The available manpower is optimally deployed in critical work fronts in self-containment mode, especially in PII and Nikachhu projects,” he said. “However, PII couldn’t work for 14 days during the current lockdown.”

The minister said that concerted efforts are being made to ensure an uninterrupted supply chain of construction materials like cement and steel that was hampered due to movement restrictions to contain the spread of the virus.

He also said efforts are also being made to engage Bhutanese as well as foreign workers after easing restrictions depending on availability of quarantine facilities at the point of entry.  

“To meet the completion deadline, projects require at least 1,900 workers on or before July 2022.”

Lyonpo Loknath Sharma attributed the delay of Nikachu to the pandemic and geological issues.

He said the project needed skilled workers for tunnel linings, which is on halt because of manpower shortage. “For mitigating the adverse geological issues, project officials used all available modern scientific measures and technologies such as injection of polyurethane grouting and tunnel seismic prediction.”

Officials claimed almost 91.28 percent of the physical construction works of PII and 80.10 percent of Nikachu project is complete.

It was learnt PII has spent Nu 74.46B of the escalated cost of Nu 89.77B and Nikachhu has spent Nu 10.13B of the total cost of Nu 13.123B so far.

Meanwhile, there is also progress in tendering for two of the three main civil works of the Kholongchu Hydropower Project like the construction of the dam and powerhouse although the construction of the headrace tunnel was started.

He said they are finding a viable and practical option on how to engage contractors for the works. “The discussions are underway to resolve it.”

The contract document of the project states Bhutanese contractors will get 20 percent of the work.

Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said that to promote and facilitate capacity building amongst Bhutanese, efforts are being made to allocate at least 20 percent of works for all major components to Bhutanese construction companies.

The Construction Development Corporation Limited is undertaking the construction of the headrace tunnel.