With no signs of any major civil works going on, Kholongchu Hydro Energy Limited (KHEL) in Trashiyangtse is in the grip of a stillness leading to scaling down of some of its operations.

It had returned one rented office in Samdrupjongkhar and downsized a guesthouse, which had doubled as an office in Thimphu. The company has also cut down its manpower and hiring of equipment and vehicles.

KHEL’s joint managing director, Kencho Dorji, said that although there has not been any specific indication from the board except for the main civil works that had to be kept on hold, the project management has started to scale down some of its operations to save cost.

He said that had the main works started by the beginning of the year, the company would have recruited at least 100 more people by now.

The project announced vacancies for about 74 positions in the company last year. However, only a few were recruited.

“The few people recruited recently were replacements of the several people who were on deputation but had been repatriated,” said the JMD.

Currently, there are 63 staff at the company of which 38 are on deputation from Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC) and six are from Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited (SJVN). Nineteen are on contract who are mostly engineers and non-technical officers.

Should the project’s main works commence, the total approved strength would be around 498.

“Right now these are the minimal amount of resources that are adequate to oversee the remaining works,” said Kencho Dorji.

Since the beginning of the preconstruction works at the project in September 2015, a total of Nu 1.992 billion has been spent.

“We chamfered down some of our operations mainly to minimise costs which otherwise would increase with time,” said Kencho Dorji. The project has not taken any loans so far and there has been no interest build-up as yet.

According to the detailed project report (DPR), the project would take 77 months beginning from preconstruction works until the commissioning of the project. Of the total, 18 months are generally for the preconstruction works.

Should the main package of works commence by late this year, the project should be completed by July 2023.

The project should have begun its main civil works by the beginning of the year. Kuensel learnt that the concession agreement, which in principle is ready, has not been signed yet.

It was understood that certain clauses with the Government of India’s guidelines on cross border electricity trade that was issued on December 2016 led to a complication with the signing of the concession agreement.

However, there are no indications from the board that the project is suspended, according to Kencho Dorji.  But the main works that include the construction of the dam, headrace tunnel that is about 15.77km in length and the powerhouse have not begun. Along with other important works, the construction of the project colony is also on hold since the spring of 2017.

The project has completed works on 31km of access roads, construction of two bailey bridges and a 33 kV substation in Korlung with a 19 km 132 kV line near Doksum is nearing completion.

Widening works from Doksum to Buyang (dam site) has also begun. Of the total, Nu 170M that the project committed for the widening works, Nu 30M was released earlier this year. However, the total cost for widening works from Doksum to Buyang (17Km) is about Nu 871 million.

According to sources, the Indian counterpart, SJVN had suggested widening the stretch in patches to save cost.

Residents said that this would do more damages than good to the general public.

“If it was not for the project, there would not have been so many inconveniences along the road these days, which we continue to face on a daily basis” said a resident Karma. “If they are doing the widening works, it should be done properly and completely, not half-heartedly.”

It was learnt that discussions are ongoing between the Department of Roads and the project on the widening works.

Younten Tshedup | Trashiyangtse