The Sinking Dam Site of Bhutan’s Biggest Hydro Power Project Under Construction – Yeshey Dorji


The sign board depicted sits bang on top of the 1,200MW Punatsangchhu Hydro Power Project-I area where the project’s dam has been under construction for the past close to a decade.

No words can better describe the pathetic story that is the PHPA-I. The project authorities are admitting that the area is SINKING.

It is my understanding that the project may never see the light of day. The project’s coffer dam has seen flooding for two successive years. If the project authorities failed to do a better job of designing a simple coffer dam, God only knows how many other design flaws are going to surprise us in the coming years.

Take for instance the matter concerning the de-silting of the dam. How well have they planned/designed it? How effectively are they going to be able to de-silt the mammoth dam of the few trillion tons of silt and muck that will be deposited annually into the belly of the dam, by the flooding Punatsangchhu? Even if they have a good design, where and how are they going to dump the muck?

If the dam ever gets built, what kind of water body is the 130 Mtrs. high dam going to create? How far will the back flow be? Will the water mass trigger earth quakes? Will it alter weather patterns?

So many questions remain unanswered. And, if that were not enough, we are told that the roof of the underground power house of PHPA-II caved in – burying unspecified number of workers.

In the meantime, solar energy is all set to take over from hydro – as the cleanest and cheapest energy source, in the next 4-5 years. And India is leading the way in the global push for harnessing the power of the sun. Hydroenergy will be old hat …. and we will be left gaping at idle turbines worth few hundred billion Ngultrums in loans at 10% interest rate.

I want to know who will cry for us then?

(Yeshey Dorji is an ardent blogger and member of the Rotary Club)