This is the second extension

Nim Dorji | Trongsa

The completion of the 118MW Nikachu Hydroelectric project has been extended to 2023.

This is the second deadline extension. The first was an extension to 2021.

According to officials, the deadline for completion of the project is set before the onset of monsoon in 2023. They, however, said there would be no cost escalation.

“While a time extension will impact the country, the project will be constructed within the overall funding available,” said an official, who declined to be named.

The delay this time has been attributed to the pandemic and geological issues.

During the pandemic, almost all foreign workers left the project site and the management had to employ young Bhutanese workers to address the labour shortage.

With the relaxation of the Covid-19 protocol, the project started recruiting skilled workers from India.

According to officials, the mandatory quarantine period of 21 days deterred many workers from coming to the project.

78 percent of the dam of Nikachu hydropower project is completed

Officials also claimed they faced difficulties with getting a quarantine facility in Gelephu and they had to charter flights from Bagdogra to Paro. “There are 130 expatriate workers in quarantine facilities and we are working to recruit more,” the official said.

At the moment, there are more than 400 Bhutanese workers and more than 600 expatriate workers.

Officials also said prolonged lockdowns in Phuentsholing and Nanglam hampered the supply of construction materials and spare parts. “However, the materials have now reached the site and work is continuing,” the official said.

They said about 75 percent of the overall work is completed so far, and 78 percent of the work at the dam site is completed.

Electromechanical work for the powerhouse are in full swing. The lowering of stator winding for both the units has been completed, and the rotor is being built.

Two turbines each will have the capacity to produce about 60 Megawatts of electricity.

Of the 12km head race tunnel (HRT), only 617m are left for excavation in phase six and seven.

Officials said poor geological conditions and excessive water ingress while excavating the tunnel in the two phases delayed the work.

They claimed concrete lining in the HRT is in full swing. “Work at the powerhouse and dam is also progressing well,” the official said.

The project is worth Nu 11.96 billion. Of the total cost, 60.8 percent was from the Asian Development Bank, 29.68 percent from the Commercial Bank of India, and 9.52 percent from DGPC.

Upon completion, Nikachhu project will export electricity to the Power Trading Corporation of India.

Edited by Tashi Dema