PHPA II readjusts workforce to stay on track

Supply of materials and critical components resolved

Phurpa Lhamo | Wangdue

The Punatsangchhu-II hydroelectric project (PHPA II) is readjusting its manpower to ensure continuity of work after the issue of import of critical materials and components are resolved.

With the help of the government and the Indian Embassy in Thimphu, import of critical materials such as drilling accessories, construction materials, structural steel and lubricants are continuing.

The PHPA II imports materials worth Nu 4 to Nu 5 billion on an average every year. Work is expected to complete as per schedule.

The travel restriction and the closure of the border affected the project with many of its labourers stuck in India. Workers who left for India for the Holi festival couldn’t come back.

According to the project Managing Director, Amresh Kumar, about 34 Bhutanese labourers were employed in addition to 50 Bhutanese already engaged at the Downstream Surge Gallery

(DSSG), where a portion of the tunnel collapsed in 2016.

The project floated vacancies of 268 skilled and unskilled labourers. “In areas where work is hampered because of manpower, the management is today diverting manpower to critical locations, and recruiting Bhutanese nationals,” said the managing director.

The project is today challenged with lack of highly skilled manpower for DSSG works, hydro-mechanical and electromechanical works.

However, the management said the government recently approved to mobilise around 11 specialists for grouting, drilling and erection of dam gate.

Mobilisation will be in accordance with the health ministry’s Covid-19 standard operating procedures, which would mean that the specialists would be quarantined for 21 days.

Today, PHPA II has about 2,700 employees. “Best efforts are being made to mobilise the manpower further” MD Amresh Kumar said.

Meanwhile, project officials said that about 87.24 percent of work at PHPA II has been completed. The dam, they said is 86.5 percent complete, while the headrace tunnel is about 99 percent complete. The powerhouse complex is 76.3 percent complete.

“Civil works are in advance stage. Critical works of DSSG and additional Surge tunnels are progressing satisfactorily,” MD Amresh Kumar said.

Technical solutions to the collapse in DSSG in March 2016 has also been implemented.

The project is today transitioning to commencing hydro mechanical and electromechanical works. Two draft tubes have been installed in the powerhouse and erecting of the third is in progress. Stator fabrication at the site has also commenced.

PHPA II suffered a major setback when a flash flood in August last year wreaked havoc damaging properties and infrastructure. “Procurement and manufacturing of the components damaged in Phelreychu stream outburst has also started. Despite the travel restriction and supply chain disruption, the project works are continuing with determined efforts to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 and deliver the project on time,” MD Amresh Kumar said.

With over Nu 66,203 million budget spent, PHPA II is expected to complete by July 2022.

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, PHPA II staffs are made to work from home on alternate basis so as not to congest the area. For the workers at the site, hand washing points are set up at all locations and mealtime has been scheduled differently to maintain social distancing.

Further quarantine facilities for 60 heads are set up at various locations in case the need arises.

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