Phurpa Lhamo | Wangdue

An independent third party review to ascertain the feasibility of construction of the Punatsangchhu Hydroelectric Project I (PHPA I) dam at current location or the construction of barrage as an alternative to the dam is underway. 

The government in July asked the Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC) to direct the review.

Following the landslide on the right bank of the dam in 2013, a holistic report was submitted by the project’s consultant Centre Water Commission (CWC).

However, National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) who reviewed the report, shared differing views on the design and the report.

The right bank has witnessed three slides so far—the first in July 2013, another in August 2016, and the recent one in January last year.

Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma said that while the consultant had said that the dam could be constructed with stabilising measures, he wasn’t convinced. “Because, for us, we have to ensure that dam lasts for another 70 to 80 years.”

NHPC had pointed out that the factor of safety wasn’t enough and recommended constructing a barrage 825 metres upstream of the dam. The construction of a barrage would mean that power generation capacity that was initially 1,200 megawatt (MW) would decrease.

Numerous meetings were also held and the CWC and NHPC were directed to reconcile on their differing opinions.

“NHPC and CWC were asked to close their differences and they have closed some of the issues.

But, in the meantime, DGPC has appointed third party consultant to see to the issues,” said the managing director of PHPA I, NC Bansal.

Deskwork has completed and some of the consultants are in the field.  The consultants through the DGPC are studying three prospective locations on construction of a barrage. The third party independent review is expected to be completed next year.

NC Bansal said that the management would decide on a way forward in the project only after the third party independent review is available.

Today, only essential works such as dewatering of the dam pit is in progress at the dam.

(PHPA I) has around 650 workers, including project management, engineers, supervisor staff and other regular support staff, a drop from around 1,000 in the past.

MD NC Bansal said that another 100 people have expressed their wish to leave for their home.

“They are not sufficient to carry on the on-going works of the project. We are focusing more on critical works and we have redistributed the workforce to the critical areas,” NC Bansal said.

Around 90 workers with the Larsen and Toubro (L&T), the construction company working on construction of dam, have left for home. Another 60 have expressed their desire to leave.

“As such, the manpower has reduced considerably,” NC Bansal said.

The project today has around 135 Bhutanese working with various contractors.

Earlier, the PHPA I  management announced 142 vacancies. However, only a handful of vacancies could be filled.

The management is today awaiting guidelines, which are being finalised by the economic affairs ministry to recruit Bhutanese nationals.

“It has been decided to implement the same first in PII. Based on the response of the same, it will be implemented in PI to fill up the vacancies created,” NC Bansal said.

As of today, 87.10 percent of the project work has been completed. As of September, a total of Nu 80.317 billion (B) has been spent.