The 1,020MW Punatsangchhu II Hydroelectric Project Authority (PHPA II), which is scheduled to commission by July 2023, would be delayed by more than a year.
The chairman of the project, Lyonpo Loknath Sharma, said that if everything goes on track, the project would commission from October 2024 unit-wise.
The PHPA II management has appraised the authority of the delay in commissioning the project during the 16th authority meeting of PHPA II in India recently.
The project was supposed to commission in July next year after several deadline extensions for, 2020, 2021, and 2022.
PHPA II started in 2010 and it was supposed to be completed in 2017. But due to the massive landslide in the powerhouse in 2016 and due to the pandemic, it has been further delayed.
Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said that during the meeting, the management had mentioned that due to the two years of pandemic and lockdown, there was a shortage of workers at the project site, which delayed the work progress.
“The management estimated the project to complete from October 2024 unit-wise and be able to complete all units by January 2025,” he said.
Lyonpo said that authority members urged management to expedite the work before October 2024.
He said that the critical part left of the project is to excavate the downstream surge gallery (DSSG). In 2016, the DSSG collapsed in the powerhouse following loose soils being dislodged.
Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said that the main challenge is to excavate at DSSG because the rock condition in the tunnel is fragile. “The management has said that it will take one and half years to excavate both sides of the tunnel.”
He, however, said that the construction of the dam will complete in December this year. “The water defiling and the gate will then be tested.”
Meanwhile, during the authority meeting, the PHPA II cost was also revised to approximately Nu 93B. The initial cost of the project was Nu 37.7B.
In July 2016, the Union Cabinet approved the revised cost estimate of Nu 72.9B.
Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said that the authority has indicated that this will be the final cost and no further cost revision.
The government of India (GoI) has entrusted an independent committee to review the barrage detailed project report (DPR) for Punatsangchhu I (PHPA I) and has requested the government of Bhutan to provide time until the independent committee submits their finding.
Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said that the independent committee might visit the PHPA I site soon to review.
He said that GoI has also been impressed that their decision will be based on the outcome of the independent committee. “It is also agreed that the pending decision on PI has a cost and overrun to both sides and efforts will be made to conclude including the authority meeting in a month.”
He also claimed that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, face-to-face authority meetings couldn’t be held for more than two and half years. “There were several pending project-related issues to be discussed and decisions to be made to enable the project management to push the project forward.”
The minister also said that the project authority was supposed to meet twice a year at an alternate venue between Thimphu and Delhi. “The next authority meeting will be held in Bhutan in November or December this year.”
Meanwhile, the National Council members recommended the government stop extending deadlines of the hydropower projects, thereby increasing the cost impacting the economy during the last parliament session.