Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said that the dam site of the Punatshangchhu hydroelectric project Authority (PHPA) I was relocated without proper study.

He was responding to a press release from the Opposition, which stated that the present government was responsible for the delay in the commissioning of the project.

The Opposition had issued the press release on June 27 after the prime minister on June 24 stated in the National Assembly that his government had failed to achieve an average GDP growth of 10 percent because of the delay in commissioning of the project.

The prime minister said the delay was caused by the former government’s decision to relocate the dam site.

The prime minister wrote on his official Facebook page that the project authority, which was chaired by former economic affairs minister Khandu Wangchuk from 2008 to 2013, had submitted the proposal to relocate the dam site to the Cabinet.

The Cabinet approved the proposal to relocate the PHPA I dam site in June 2008, he said. According to him, a slippage on the right bank of the river at the PHPA I dam site was noticed in July 2013.

“This ‘slippage’ is a major shear, a fracture in the entire rock face, inside the hill and extends all the way to the foundation of the dam. It was certainly not just a ‘landslide’ as reported by DPT,” he said.

The prime minister claimed that a proper investigation and detailed study at the location of the new dam site would have identified the fracture in the rock. A joint audit investigation concluded that sufficient studies had not been carried out before relocating the dam site, he added.

The project, he said, has spent about Nu 4 billion to rectify the shear zone and stabilise the right bank of the river. According to him, rectifying the shear zone and stabilising the right bank has delayed the project by at least six years.

He puts the annual gross revenue forgone for delay at Nu 22 billion at a tariff rate of Nu 4.30 per unit. The revenue forgone for the six years works out to Nu 132 billion, he stated.

However, the Opposition in its press release cited two main reasons for the relocation of the dam site.

One, the dam site in the DPR (detailed project report) had 70m over burden depth below the riverbed but the new site had an estimated depth of 35m only. Two, the project’s electricity generation capacity would increase by additional 105MW by shifting the site, an increase from 1095MW to 1200MW.

To determine the new dam site, the Opposition says that detailed studies were undertaken and discussions held between the technical agencies of the two governments.

The Opposition stated that the final clearance for the change in the dam site was provided by the CMD of WAPCOS on February 12, 2009 in consultation with relevant agencies.

According to the Opposition, a landslide had occurred on the right bank of the PHPA I dam in July 2013. It added that it was therefore the responsibility of the PDP government to solve the problem.

The Opposition stated that it is most unfortunate for Bhutan that the PDP government failed to resolve the problem in the five years of their term.

MB Subba