Hydropower constructions challenge Bhutan’s forest cover goals?

Govt. should expedite hydropower projects: Opposition

The government should complete Punatsangchu-II and Nikachu Hydropower Projects by mid-2023

In order to mitigate fiscal deficits in the short-term and stay steadfast on the course of economic self-reliance in the long run, the government must complete Punatsangchu-II and Nickachu hydropower projects by mid-2023, and expedite other hydropower projects, according to the Opposition Party (Druk Phuensum Tshogpa or DPT).

In a press release issued yesterday evening, the party stated that due to COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s economy has been impacted badly.

“Our domestic revenue has fallen sharply and is expected to fall further at least in the next two fiscal years. Fiscal deficit is projected at negative 8.59% of GDP in 2021-2022, which is beyond acceptable threshold,” states the party.

“Further, external grants and receipts are also projected to decrease sharply, partly due to front-loading. Owing to this, the total resources is projected to fall by Nu 11.3bn in the next fiscal year, from Nu 56,765.582mn in 2021-2022 to Nu 45,465.545mn in 2022-2023. This is deeply worrying,” states the press release.

As a consequence, the Opposition said they fear that the government could resort to more borrowings, especially in non-productive and non-hydropower sectors and worsen the already bad debt situation.

“Our debt as a percentage of GDP had increased in the last three years from 114.2% in 2018-2019 to 138.8% to 2020-2021, which is a matter of serious concern,” states the party.

The party urged the government to draw up clear and concrete roadmap and plans for expeditious execution of the ongoing hydropower projects as well as those in pipeline.

For the Punatsangchu-II and Nikachu hydropower projects, the Opposition recommended that the government must provide all the necessary human resources required for the projects and strive to complete and commission them by mid-2023.

“It is understood that this is achievable if Punatsangchu-II is provided with additional 1,600 workers and Nikachu with 90. We feel this is perfectly feasible,” states the party.

Further, the party stated, “We would like to clarify that the Opposition had never objected to import of foreign workers during the pandemic but questioned the manner in which they were brought into in defiance of the standing COVID-19 safety norms and protocols.”

For the Punatsangchu-I hydropower project, the Opposition stated that the decision on choice between dam and barrage should be concluded expeditiously.

“We understand that independent reports from third parties are ready. Further, the loss of power generation with shift from dam to barrage system is estimated to be only around 1.5%. Indo-Bhutan cooperation in hydropower sector has always been exemplary, and rightly an envy of the world. Therefore, we are fully confident of reaching a productive and mutually beneficial decision swiftly,” states the press release.

For the Kholongchu hydropower project, the government has been urged to expedite the conclusion of the necessary agreements, and start the actual construction works of the project.

“It is understood that Kholongchu hydropower project is still far from execution pending agreement on various financing and contract matters,” the party stated.

For the Sunkosh, Kuri-Gongri, Rotpatshong (Dorjilung) and other hydropower projects, the Opposition called upon the government to honor its pledges to the people, and start the above projects.

“The present government had pledged to ‘generate additional 5,200MW of hydropower through Sunkosh, Kuri-Gongri and other projects’. During the recent by-election campaign, Dorjilung hydropower project was also committed to start. However, none has been initiated yet despite the government’s term nearing end,” the party stated.

According to the Opposition, it remains steadfast in their support to the government in all its endeavors.

Staff Reporter from Thimphu