Govt. to discuss Kholongchhu project with India’s power ministry

The way forward for the Kholongchhu project will be different, according to Lyonpo Loknath Sharma

With the Joint Venture (JV) model of the Kholongchhu project in Trashiyangtse being closed and the project put on hold by the government, secretaries of the Ministry of Power (MoP) from India will visit Bhutan to discuss the project.

The discussion will be on the way forward for the Kholongchhu project, according to Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma.

According to the minister, the initial discussion was held with the Government of India (GoI) several times on the possibilities of the project to be continued and the different models that will be put in place for the Kholongchhu project.

“The two governments also discussed earlier the JV model for the project. Both the sides agreed to close it,” the minister said, adding that a further meeting with the two ministries of India (including India’s economic ministry) will decide on this project.

Lyonpo clarified that the Kholongchhu project is not closed, but only the JV model is closed.

“People should not be misunderstood with the closing of the project,” Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said, adding that only the JV between the Druk Green Power Corporation and the Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited (SJVNL) was dropped.

Meanwhile, the construction of the Kholongchhu Hydro Energy Limited (KHEL) was planned to be financed through a debt-equity ratio of 70:30 with 50-50 equity holdings between the DGPC and the SJVNL.

“The government has invested around Nu 4-5bn in KHEL. But we need to question ourselves to wait for Nu 80-90bn investment for KHEL and go like Punatshangchu projects’ ways or resolve it at the root,” Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said.

“It has been 10 years now in Punatsangchu projects; still nothing is happening and we have invested almost Nu 25-30bn no; so we don’t want it to happen with KHEL as well,” the minister said.

“The government is still discussing with the GoI about the Kholongchhu project after the JV model was dropped,” Lyonpo said. “We can’t assure what will happen with the project, but that doesn’t mean the government will be closing the Kholongchhu project.”

According to the minister, the government has talked with the Indian government and companies and cleared all the issues of the JV model. The construction of all infrastructure will be kept on hold till the issues get cleared.

“The ministry has submitted a letter to the DGPC to initiate closing,” Lyonpo said, adding that if there are any liabilities that the government has to bear and whatever the expenses that the project has done, the project committee will look into it and pay on various basis now.

“Nu 4-5bn was spent on the project until now. The bills will be paid to the contractors for the work done so far,” Lyonpo said, adding that the pending bill amount is around Nu 5-6mn.

Kinley Yonten from Thimphu