Phurpa Lhamo   

Following a revised standard operating procedure, work at the Punatsangchhu hydroelectric project (PII) has resumed in containment mode since February of this year.

According to a PII official, around 2,040 persons, including PII supervisory staff, are working on site in the self-contained zone of PII between Rurichu to Dogarthang. He added that the workers are at the critical work fronts of the powerhouse and dam complex.

The PII management also shared that there was a major breakthrough at the downstream surge gallery (DSSG). PII officials said that so far, the balance excavation of DSSG was being carried out from the access tunnel at an elevation of 608m.

With the increase in excavation depth, hauling of excavated materials from elevation of 595m has become a challenge, leading to more cycle time in excavation. “With the recent breakthrough, hauling of the excavated muck will be carried out from the bottom of the DSSG, which will reduce the cycle time of excavation.”

Due to the lockdown and lack of workers, completion of PII is expected to be delayed further. While more than 2,000 workers are at the site, another 1,500 workers are required.

The official said that with the current lockdown, coupled with the suspension of entry of foreign workers with effect from January 9 this year, there will be an impact on the completion of the project.

“Although the duration of actual lockdown was only for 46 days, the impact due to restrictions on manpower recruitment and materials have seriously hampered the physical progress of the project since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020.”

While workers are allowed to work in the self-contained zones, they aren’t allowed to mix with local communities. PII security personnel escort workers from their camps to the sites and back.

“They have been issued work site cards so that they work only at their approved work site. Before entering the work site, they are thermally scanned for surveillance for Covid symptoms.”

PII officials said that the project is facing a number of challenges in terms of supply of construction materials and other consumable materials, including essential food items. “Yet with the active support being provided by the task force, police, desuups, PII employees, all such issues are being resolved on a day to day basis so as to continue to work at site for the early completion of the project.”