Punatsangchhu I hydroelectric project (PHPA I) is working out solutions to ensure full safety of the slide area and the areas above it, the project’s chairperson and economic affairs minister Loknath Sharma said.

He said that the delay in the completion of the project has got everyone concerned. “We have asked a report from WAPCOS,the project’s consultant, in particular on if the highway and the hillock above the slide area is safe, the minister said.

The minister, addressing the press on February 15, said that the reports so far claim that the area above the slide was safe.

He said that the slide area would be further secured as the dam is built. “We’re concerned more about the area above the slide and for the long term sustainability of the entire project,” he said.

A technical committee, which would meet in New Delhi on February 22, would provide technical solutions and give a clear idea on what the project should do.

The project authority, chaired by the minister, has asked the project management to submit a micro-scheduling of the works. “Because somehow somewhere the works are going a bit slow,” he said.

He said people have to be mindful that most of the works in hydropower project are civil works and working against nature and geological surprises.  

In the recent geological surprise, on January 22 a portion of the muck or overburden of the previous slide had moved down and took away an excavator, injuring the operator and damaging concrete piles and cable anchors put as stabilising measures of the main slide.

This was the third slide in the same area. The first and the biggest slide occurred in July 2013 and another smaller slide took place in December 2016.

The project’s commission deadline has also been pushed by a year to 2024 to remove the muck of the overburden of the previous slide above the highway.

Works for the 1,200 MegaWatt (MW) project began on November 11, 2008 and was scheduled to complete on December 2016.

The minister said that Punatsangchhu II, the second project in the valley three kms downstream of Puna I, was on schedule. The project also faced similar challenges when the roof of the downstream surge gallery collapsed in March 2016. The project is expected to complete by 2021.

Meanwhile, Mangdechhu hydropower project is expected to begin generation within a month’s time.

Lyonpo Loknath Sharma, who also chairs the project authority, said the project management wants to hand it over.

“But we don’t want the management to rush. We want to ensure that nothing is overlooked and quality is maintained,” Lyonpo said.

Minor works like sealing the floodgates and concreting the adit (access) tunnels delayed the commissioning of 720 MW Mangdechhu Hydroelectric Project scheduled for January 10.

One of the four generating units of the project was supposed to be commissioned on January 10. Each unit is capable of generating 180 MW of power.

This is the fourth delay in commissioning after it missed the deadline in November last year, a span of three months. Having missed a deadline in October last year, it was pushed to November.

After officials detected a crack in the one end-arm of the floodgate, which was manufactured in Mumbai, the whole component had to be remanufactured. This delayed the completion of the dam and pushed the deadline further.

As per the detailed project report, MHPA was a seven-year project with a completion deadline of September 2017.

Tshering Palden