The discovery that the run of the river 1,800 MW Kuri Gongri project can now become a 2,640 MW reservoir project generating the revenue of around three Tala projects is a welcome development in Bhutan’s 10,000 MW story.
While there have been some minor hitches, the 10,000 MW projects, as Bhutan’s long term solution to its self sufficiency and also macro-economic development is well on track.
A country that did not have power to even light a single light bulb up to 1960 is now not only meeting its domestic demands but also playing an increasingly important role in providing power to giant India.
From the 1961 to 1974 Indo-Bhutan power cooperation was mainly in the form of small local mini hydro-projects providing power for Bhutan’s domestic consumption. The big change was from 1974 onward when India and Bhutan agreed to build the 336 MW Chukha hydro project, which after completion in 1988 made Bhutan a power exporter overnight and also significantly improved the country’s balance sheet.
Subsequently the 60 MW Kurichu project which was completed in 2002 still plays a vital role in supplying power to the eastern grid.
The completion of 1,020 MW Tala in 2006 was a significant turning point as it not only was India’s largest foreign investment at around USD 1 bn, and a successful one at that, but it also significantly increased Bhutan’s revenue and became a blue print for further cooperation on mega projects.
The project signaled that both countries could do big projects together and it was also a moment of pride for Bhutan as an overwhelmingly Bhutanese team and expertise ran the Tala project after its commission.
His Majesty the Fourth King and His Majesty the King played an important role in laying the foundations of the 10,000 MW project by first securing a 5,000 MW project deal which was later increased to 10,000 MW in 2008 by both the governments.
Once completed the 10,000 MW projects will generate around Nu 100 bn in revenue per year which will make Bhutan a self- sufficient nation and push our per capita income to the highest in South Asia.
The projects during construction will generate thousands of Bhutanese jobs and after completion will give 7,000 direct jobs and thousands of more indirect jobs.
Surplus power from the projects in addition to being exported to India will also power Bhutan’s new industrial estates at Jigmeling, Motanga and Samtse considerably increasing our industrial development and corporate tax revenue.
The projects will lead to considerable economic and infrastructure development in some of the most remote regions of Bhutan.
The equal geographical distribution of the projects will ensure equitable urbanization and development in the projects areas.
As the 10,000 MW projects are located in mainly deep gorges the human and environmental cost will be relatively much lesser when compared to other projects in the region. As a result for India the added benefit will be that the projects will not suffer stoppage from either environmental or social groups. Also, Bhutan as the implementing country has strong political commitment at the highest levels and considerably less red tape and so the projects will move at a faster pace.
At the end of the day the 10,000 MW projects is a win-win for both countries as Bhutan will get much needed revenue as projects start coming on line and India will get much needed power. The project for Bhutan hold’s special significance as it will ensure that Bhutan no longer remains an aid dependant country.
“The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership”
Harvey S. Firestone