The Ambassador of India to Bhutan, Ruchira Kamboj said that hydropower cooperation is a very important part of the relationship between Bhutan and India. She said four projects have been delivered successfully in Bhutan with GoI’s assistance and they are Chukha, Tala, Kurichu and Mangdechu
She said the 720 MW Mangdechu Hydroelectric Project Plant (MHPA) was inaugurated on 17 August 2019 jointly by the Prime Ministers of India and Bhutan and it is a success.
She said the project was completed exactly in seven years from the date of start, March 2012 without any cost or time overruns.
However, she said that the two projects (PHPA I and PHPA II) is under execution. “There is one new one in the pipeline which is Sunkosh hydropower projects and perhaps also another one in the form of Kholongchu hydro electric power project which is a joint venture module,” she said.
The ambassador said that as of October 2019, Mangdechu generated 1.077 bn units which amounts to revenue worth Nu 4.44 bn for the power plant and it has already achieved 36.36% of the designed annual energy in a period of just three months.
“The total generation capacity of the Mangdechu power plant is 3 bn units in a year but the Mangdechu management has informed me that it shall achieve not less than 3.3 bn units,” she added.
She said that aside from the fact that it is delivered on time, it is working on all four cylinders generating electricity and revenue and she said that 90 percent of the employees in the project were Bhutanese, at all levels.
In addition, she said that all the decisions and responsibilities for the projects are jointly and collectively owned by Indian and Bhutan officials and thereby everything is done jointly.
Meanwhile, she said that while commissioning a large project there are always teething problems and MHPA is no exception.
“Teething problems associated with the MHPA have been resolved and the issue related to oil spillage has been sorted out. A team from India said that teething issues related to oil spillage are usually observed in the newly commissioned hydropower projects,” she said.
Similarly, she stated that it is important to understand that the operation of the number of units in the power plant in turn depends on the hydrological cycle of the year and is based on the average of water discharged in the river.
All the four units can be operated from June to September because of the water level, she said, adding that the water level drops after that and based on that (water level); the units would go down to three, two or one.
She said, “The flow of the water at a Mangdechu river is providing for the generation equivalent to one machine on full load and another machine on partial load. And two remains un-operational.”
She said that this is a collective venture and the success goes to both sides. However, if there is any shortcoming or any challenges, it is again the two sides because the structure of any hydro project is the management which is chaired by a Lyonpo (MoEA) which is 50 percent of Bhutanese and 50 percent of Indian make up.
The tariff negotiation was mutually done between the two countries. She said, “For MHPA, an amount over and above the tariff that was agreed upon by both sides and the GoI has further topped it.”
She said MHPA has also taken up its corporate social responsibility seriously with building of roads and setting up and renovation of schools and monasteries.
While the MHPA’s civil works like dam, head race tunnel and power house has gone well, a host of issues has cropped up with respect to the electro-mechanical equipment supplied by BHEL (see page 1 main story.)