One of the important features of the Gelephu Mindfulness City project as revealed in the Master Plan vision design of Bjarke Engels and team is the Sunkosh Dam.
The vision design said the final bridge, a hydroelectric dam, will be constructed on the city’s western border with a step-well retaining wall that offers viewpoints, staircases for meditative walks, and a temple. Visitors and pilgrims can ascend and descend along countless individual routes to the visitor center and temple nested on the face of the manmade cliff.
It said the Sunkosh Temple-Dam embodies in architectural form all the foundational elements of Gelephu: the harmonious coexistence of culture and nature, conceived as a hybrid child of Bhutan’s rich past heritage and its prosperous future legacy.
Given that the vision said a dam is coming up the Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC) has been doing some technical studies and the true potential of the reservoir dam is under 5,000 MW at 4,600 to 4,800 MW.
This is much more than the 2,560 MW project that had earlier been envisioned for the project.
The idea is instead of just doing a 2,560 MW project why not take advantage of the real reservoir potential of the project and build a bigger dam and project in one location.
Given that this is a reservoir project if it is built then it can solve Bhutan’s power woes in winter when generation in the run of the river projects all fall sharply to the point that Bhutan has to import power.
The dam height could be higher than the 220 meters long Hoover dam in USA and the backflow generated from the water would be for around 70 kms all the way to the Wakletar bridge between Wangdue and Tsirang.
However, there will be no displacement of people as there are no settlements, schools or hospitals there.
It would be a multi use project beyond just power generation as it can be used for supplying water and also recreation.
These are early days for the project and it is not yet clear how it will be funded or implemented.
Sunkosh was one of the projects in the 10,000 MW by 2020 but it could not take off after issues of implementation modality and financing issues.
For many years strong attempts were made to get the project done under this model but there was no success and it lay ignored until the Gelephu Mindfulness City project.
During the 116th National Day Address His Majesty The King said that considering our current expertise, we need to enhance the installed capacity of hydropower by expediting the construction of projects such as Kholongchu, Chamkharchu, Dorjilung, Nyera Amari, Wangchu, Bunakha and Sunkosh, for which Detailed Project Reports are ready.
His Majesty said Bhutan’s electricity prices should be among the most competitive in the region so that our hydro resources are not just a source of revenue, but also an enabler of other investments.