New Delhi: At a time when India has strained relations with both China and Nepal to the east, External Affairs Minister (EAM) S. Jaishankar assured Himalayan neighbour Bhutan that India is its “special and privileged partner” who stands together with Bhutan in dealing with the health and economic challenges posed by the Coronavirus pandemic.
The assurance was furnished at the signing of the Concession Agreement for the 600 MW Kholongchhu (Joint Venture) Hydroelectric Project between the Royal Government of Bhutan and Kholongchhu Hydro Energy Limited (KHEL) which itself is a joint venture of Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC) of Bhutan and Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited (SJVNL) of India. This is the first joint venture Hydroelectric Project between India and Bhutan but New Delhi has been boosting Bhutanese capacity in hydropower generation through several projects.
The MEA said, “The Concession Agreement for the 600 MW Kholongchhu (Joint Venture) Hydroelectric Project between the Royal Government of Bhutan and Kholongchhu Hydro Energy Limited was signed on 29 June 2020 in Thimphu. The 600 MW run-of-the-river project is located on the lower course of the Kholongchhu River in Trashiyangtse District in Eastern Bhutan. The Project envisages an underground powerhouse of four 150 MW turbines with water impounded by a concrete gravity dam of 95 meters height. ... The project is expected to be completed in the second half of 2025.”
The MEA added, “Hydropower sector is the flagship area of India-Bhutan bilateral cooperation. The 720 MW Mangdechhu hydroelectric project was jointly inaugurated earlier in August 2019 by the Prime Ministers of India and Bhutan. With this, four hydroelectric projects of bilateral cooperation (336 MW Chukha HEP, 60 MW Kurichhu HEP, 1020 MW Tala HEP and 720 MW Mangdechhu HEP), totaling over 2100 MW, are already operational in Bhutan.”
Speaking on the occasion through video-conference, EAM Jaishankar said, “India stands together with Bhutan in dealing with the health and economic challenges posed by this pandemic. Hydro power sector has been the most visible symbol of the mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation between our two countries. With continued working together, we are in process of expediting the completion of other ongoing projects including the1200MW Punatsangchhu-1, 1020MW Punatsangchhu-2 and now the 600 MW Kholongchhu HEP.”
The EAM added, “This is yet another milestone in our diverse and multifaceted bilateral cooperation. I am sure that the commencement of the construction activities of the Project will create economic and employment opportunities in Bhutan in this critical time. GoI has provided support to Bhutan in terms of medical equipment, kits and medicines as per RGoB’s requirements. Besides continuing with our developmental partnership, we have also ensured uninterrupted supply of essentials and other goods to Bhutan despite the lockdowns.”