MHPA, Trongsa

Our coverage on Hydropower from 2012-2022: The Bhutanese

The Punatsangchu I project was the main focus on 17 April 2013 which showed that decision to relocate the dam site by the cabinet based in the advice of PHPA and an okay from Indian Consultants pushed up the project costs. The project later found a right bank weakness which has stalled the project.

In 30 May 2015 this paper pointed out that India is power surplus and its discoms are broke bringing into question the future viability of Bhutan’s 10,000 MW by 2020 plan.

A 11 July 2015 story based on a RAA report talked about Nu 1.4 bn in irregularities and overpayment for P-1.

On 27 August 2016 the paper did a story how Indian officials offered the Joint Venture or credit route for the 2,560 MW Sunkosh project and 2,640 MW Kuri Gongri project. The same issue also pointed to major issues between SJVN and DGPC in the 600 MW Kholongchu project. The 3rd September issue also pointed to how the 180 MW Bunakha project was stuck due to issues with SJVN.

In 10 September 2016 this paper broke the story on informal agreement between Bhutan, Bangladesh and India to do the 1,125 MW Dorjilung project. However, the project would be stuck as while Bhutan and Bangladesh have agreed to the MoU there is no response from India yet.

From 11 February 2017 onwards The Bhutanese did a series of 8 stories on India’s ‘Guidelines on Cross Border Trade of Electricity’ that would restrict Bhutan’s entry into India’s energy trading markets, ensure low tariff and limit the types of investment in Bhutan’s hydropower sector. The CBTE led to even the Kholongchu project coming to a standstill as 30% of its power was to be sold in India energy trading markets. The outcry over CBTE in Bhutan resulted in India making major amendments to it that removed the clauses not in Bhutan’s interests.

On 1 April 2017 the paper carried a piece called ‘More than Doklam issue, Bhutan more worried about hydropower projects and trade.’ The article while acknowledging the seriousness of the ongoing Doklam standoff pointed out that in the long run unfulfilled promises around hydropower development and a growing trade imbalance with India that impacts the economy is a bigger concern for Bhutan. The article was published in The Indian Express too.

The 2nd September 2017 issue of the paper focused on the resolution of the Doklam standoff through two articles. The first focused on how Bhutan handled the entire standoff.

The second one titled ‘Giving Bhutan its due,’ countered the perception in India that India had come to Bhutan’s rescue in Doklam and instead showed how it was actually Bhutan that came to India’s rescue. This was also published in The Indian Express.

In 19 May 2018 the paper reported that Bhutan will not seek any increase in the grant amount for the 12th plan from India with a focus on achieving self sufficiency.

From 13 November 2018 this paper did a series of stories on the high level Hydropower Committee report that did a comprehensive rethink on the entire hydropower sector. It recommended going slow and smart in hydro projects, ensuring better standards and more Bhutanese participation, reforms to the project management to be staffed more with technical experts, need to benefit local communities more and it was against ownership of power projects by private parties.

On 2 November 2019, the paper did a story on how despite three elected governments making requests to India, Bhutan was still unable to get a fiber optic line from Bangladesh via India as the two current lines run through Kolkata and the narrow Siliguri corridor and any natural disaster there could lead to disruptions. This would prove prophetic in May 2020 when Cyclone Amphan knocked down both of Bhutan’s internet lines through Kolkata for around 24 hours.

From 9 November onwards this paper did a series of stories to show major faults in the electro mechanical equipment supplied by BHEL to Mangdechu and with one turbine applying the break on itself and malfunctioning. There was later a fire in the unit too that lead to the unit being not operational for large periods causing billions in losses. The project withheld certain payments for such damages and cost of repairs but BHEL took Mangdechu to court.

The 16 November 2020 issue brought out the fact that the Sunkosh project has an uncertain future and may not even happen due to financing and modality issues.

On 6 June 2020 the paper first reported on recommendations by the NHPC to abandon the current dam site.

On 6 February 2021 it was found that the dam site of the much delayed P-1 project would have to be abandoned after a cost Nu 23 bn with the proposal of building a barrage site. 

The paper over the years also reported on the various technical difficulties facing P I and the cost and time overruns in both P I and P II.

The paper also reported extensively in the various difficulties caused in formalizing Joint Venture power projects due to unreasonable demands by Indian PSUs.

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