The Prime Minister during the meet the press yesterday announced that the government would not be accepting the Chamkarchu petition but would go ahead with the project.
“The petition is almost 10 years too late as the agreement was signed between the two governments in 2006 and a protocol to the agreement was signed in 2009 followed by a Joint Venture agreement in 2014,” said the PM.
He said apart from the late timing there were different reasons being given from wanting to save Chamkarchu to ensuring fresh water to saying that hydropower is a bad investment.
The PM said that Bhutan is one of the most environment friendly countries in the world with 72 percent forest cover and 52 percent protected areas. He said Bhutan was also the first country to commit to be a carbon neutral and currently Bhutan was even carbon negative.
The PM said that even if one looked at climate change the export of power from Punatsangchu I and II to India would offset more than 7 mn metric tons of carbon in a year. He said all the projects are also run of the river and though there is an impact it is not much.
He said there also had been criticism in the way the project is being implemented and that it was not benefiting the Bhutanese but he said that that this project implementation was happening under the inter-governmental model right from the time of Samtenling, Chukha, Basachu, Kurichu, Tala and now P I, P II and Mangdechu.
He said it was too late now to change those modalities but if people wanted change they should have approached people who had access to leadership in the past. He said the JV agreements favour Bhutan.
The PM pointed out that there was real benefits from hydropower to the economy. He said just this year to ensure free education and healthcare the government would have to spend Nu 14 bn. He said currently most of the government revenue comes from hydropower and Bhutan does need this money for its developmental needs.
He said the Chamkarchu river has potential for seven projects on it and question was who would compensate or subsidize Bhutan for the billions of revenue to be lost by not building the current project.
“I refuse to take this risk,” said the PM. He said Bhutan has already made many sacrifices for the environment.
The PM said that even for run of the river projects there were environmental rules that were being followed and one of them was maintain a certain ecological flow on the old riverbed.