India and SAARC in favor of Bhutan’s hydroelectric activity

Bhutan

According to the Secretary of India’s Ministry of Power, Pradeep Kumar Pujari, there is a huge demand in India for hydroelectric power generated in Bhutan.

Published reports indicate the government of India has announced it will provide electricity to every village and household by 2021 and for this to become reality, transmission lines from Bhutan hydro projects would have to pass through India’s territory.

The South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) said it is also in favor of a framework for inter-regional grid connectivity resulting from the greatly increasing installed hydroelectric capacity in Bhutan.

SAARC member states include: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. According to SAARC, Bhutan has the potential to generate as much as 30 GW of hydropower.

Pujari said although the geological challenges to develop infrastructure are immense, talks are being held with technical experts from Bhutan, Bangladesh and India, to determine how the infrastructure would be set up, managed and maintained.

“We never worked in such an environment,” he said. “It was always bilateral until now, but other parts of the world have done it and we will learn from their experience.”

Pujari said three projects signed in an Inter-governmental agreement (IG) between India and Bhutan include:

  • 118-MW Nikachhu about 3 km downstream of the confluence of the Nikachhu and Chhunabachhu rivers in Trongsa district;
  • 1,125-MW Kuri-I [Rothpashong project] on the Kurichhu River in Mongar district; and
  • 126-MW Dagachhu facility located on the Dagachhu River in located in Dagana Dzongkhag.

Another IG between the two countries approved the development of four joint venture hydroelectric projects. Once commissioned, the plants are likely to increase Bhutan’s installed generating capacity by about 2,120 MW.

The projects include:

  • 600-MW Kholongchhu located at the lower course of the Kholongchhu River just before its confluence with Dramengchu River in Trashiyangtse district in eastern Bhutan;
  • 570-MW Wangchhu on the River Wangchu;
  • 180-MW Bunakha on the River Wangchu; and
  • 770-MW Chamkharchhu located on the right bank of the River Chamkharchhu, is approximately 3.5 km upstream of its confluence with the River Mangdechhu

In 2006 the SAARC Energy Centre was established in Islamabad, Pakistan, “to promote: development of energy resources, including hydropower; energy trade in the region; renewable and alternative energy resources; and promote energy efficiency and conservation in the region.”

Pujari said the 1,200-MW Punatsangchhu-I, the 1,020-MW Punatsangchhu II and the 720-MW Mangdecchu -- all on the on the Punatsangchhu River -- are expected to be completed in Bhutan during the the next two years. The country’s generation capacity would then increase by 2,940 MW.

Pujari also said detailed project reports are being drafted for two additional plants in Bhutan, the Sunkosh and Kuri-goongri hydro schemes, which will each generate 2,560 MW.

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