The country would forego a gross revenue of Nu 17.6 billion due to the delay in commissioning the 1,020 megawatt (MW) Punatsangchhu II (PII) hydropower project and the 118 MW Nikachu hydropower project.
PII was scheduled to be commissioned in the middle of this year and Nikachu in 2021, but the pandemic, labor shortages and geological issues hampered progress on both projects.
Both projects are only expected to be commissioned in 2023. PII is expected to be completed by July 2023 and Nikachu by the onset of monsoon 2023.
Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma said the deployment of foreign workers had been slowed since the coronavirus outbreak in the country and this had severely hampered work progress.
“Available manpower is optimally deployed to critical work fronts in standalone mode, especially in PII and Nikachhu projects,” he said. “However, PII was unable to operate for 14 days during the current lockdown.”
The minister said concerted efforts are being made to ensure an uninterrupted supply chain of construction materials like cement and steel which has been hampered due to movement restrictions to contain the spread of the virus.
He also said efforts were also being made to hire Bhutanese and foreign workers after easing restrictions based on the availability of quarantine facilities at the point of entry.
“To meet the completion deadline, the projects require at least 1,900 workers by July 2022.”
Lyonpo Loknath Sharma attributed Nikachu’s delay to the pandemic and geological issues.
He said the project needed skilled workers for the lining of the tunnels, which is on hold due to a labor shortage. “To mitigate the adverse geological issues, the project officials used all available modern scientific measurements and technologies such as polyurethane grouting and tunnel seismic prediction.”
Officials said that nearly 91.28% of the physical construction works of PII and 80.10% of the Nikachu project are complete.
It was learned that PII spent Nu 74.46 billion out of the increased cost of Nu 89.77 billion and Nikachhu spent Nu 10.13 billion out of the total cost of Nu 13.123 billion so far.
Meanwhile, progress has also been made in the bidding for two of the three main civil works of the Kholongchu hydropower project, such as the construction of the dam and the power station, although the construction of the tunnel of brought has begun.
He said they found a viable and practical option on how to hire contractors for the works. “Discussions are ongoing to resolve it.”
The contract document for the project states that Bhutanese contractors will get 20% of the work.
Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said that to promote and facilitate capacity building for Bhutanese, efforts are being made to allocate at least 20% of works for all major components to Bhutanese construction companies.
The Construction Development Corporation Limited undertakes construction of the intake tunnel.