National Council reviews hydropower development policy and programs in the country

National Council (NC) discussed the need for better policies and programs in hydropower projects, based on the follow up to resolution passed on during the 16th session, and the responses received from the implementing agencies and the ruling government.

The first and foremost part of the hydropower resolution is revisiting the initial hydropower plans and to develop alternative plans and policies to sustain the desired economic growth level.

With the current installed capacity of 1,606MW consisting of six projects, about 7 percent of the techno-economic potential of 24,000MW has been harnessed.

Taking into the consideration the 10,000MW power plant by 2020 and as agreed with the Government of India in 2009, about 52 percent of hydropower is yet to be harnessed. NC pointed out that such a goal is not possible.

As for harnessing the balance potential of energy which is estimated at 18,700MW, the Ministry of Economic Affairs is in the process of reviewing the policies and plans like BSHDP 2008, PSMP 2003 and EAB 2001, that includes the development of a Strategic Road Map for the Hydropower Sector, which will be based on the absorptive capacity, such as macro-economic and socio-environmental impact.

The revision of PSMP 2003 will be carried out with the full involvement of Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) and relevant agencies.

Secondly, the plans and policies mean to draw-up clear strategies to be implemented in a timely manner, so that projects in pipeline are included in fulfilling both hydropower development and employment scope.

Currently, the hydropower projects under construction have been coordinating with GNHC, Dzongkhags and Gewogs in implementing social and environmental plans.

Additionally, the projects have been providing both capital and physical resources to construct roads, schools, hospitals, irrigation channels, drinking water supplies, afforestation, employment, and leasing of private land and buildings among others.

The resolution to direct GNHC to align local development plans with hydropower development projects was passed during the 16th Session of the National Council.

The House pointed out that efforts have been made to integrate development of housing infrastructure with proposed township within the vicinity of the projects.

The best examples can be seen in Kholongchu and Nikachhu projects, where the benefits to the local economy has been ensured by incorporating the provisions of local employment, sourcing  material and services from local suppliers and service providers in the main contract document. Such practice will be followed in the other upcoming projects.

The preparation of pre-feasibility reports (PFRs) and detailed project reports (DPRs), an integral part of hydropower development process, is being carried out by non-Bhutanese. In line with this, the members of National Council passed the resolution to give preferences to Bhutanese and local consulting firms in preparing of PFRs or DPRs.

In order to do so, MoEA has recently offered the PFRs and DPRs works to DGPC, who in turn recruits its own people and Bhutanese expertise.

Efforts are also being made to outsource services to Bhutanese firms and national expertise, whoever is available within the country, in line with the procurement rules and regulations.

Punakha National Council member, Rinzin Dorji, said more needs to be done to create employment opportunities. “We need to create enough opportunities and encourage our youth to get involved in construction sector, so that they gain enough experience both mentally and physically,” he stated.

NC, in its last session, recalling the concerns of not having national experts called upon the government to strengthen the role of Druk Green Power Corporation in hydropower development.

The Managing Director of DGPC is already a member in all the EJG, project authority and technical coordination committees of hydropower projects.

Besides the Indian government projects, DGPC is being given the responsibility to construct hydropower projects through other financing channels, like Asian Development Bank.

The ministry also considers DGPC and BPC as the technical arm of the government, and directs them to carry out various hydropower studies as earmarked in the five-year plan.

Gasa National Council member, Sangay Khandu, said one of the most concerning issues in the hydropower project is the increase in tariff and hydropower debts. He said the government must also look into the cost reduction of hydropower projects.

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