India plans four hydro projects in Bhutan

India plans four hydro projects in Bhutan

New Delhi: State-run power firms are planning to develop four projects in Bhutan as a means of harnessing the country’s hydroelectric potential as well as enhancing India’s strategic influence in the region.

National Hydroelectric Power Corp. Ltd (NHPC), NTPC Ltd, Tehri Hydro Development Corp. Ltd (THDC) and Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd (SJVNL) plan to develop the projects with a combined capacity of 3,000MW through joint ventures, and import the bulk of the power generated back to India.

Also See Water Dilemma (Graphic)

The issue will be discussed when a team from Bhutan visits India on 23 March, power secretary H.S. Brahma told Mint. “We are planning to sign implementation agreements for four projects with Bhutan. While we are looking at developing around 10 projects in Bhutan, four state-owned firms—NHPC, NTPC, THDC and SJVNL will be developing four projects through joint ventures," he said. “Around 90% of the electricity generated through these projects will be brought back to India to meet our energy demands."

Bhutan, which is strategically located between India and China, is estimated to have a potential to generate 30,000MW of hydropower, but has an installed capacity of just 1,490MW.

The move comes at a time when Chinese firms are going ahead with efforts to develop projects in Nepal. “While Bhutan is wary of China, it doesn’t want to part from ownership of projects. They should join hands with Indian state-owned companies to develop their potential," said a senior government official, who did not want to be identified.

“We are planning to develop the 600MW Amochu project in Bhutan either through ownership or joint venture route," said R.S. Sharma, chairman and managing director of NTPC. S.K. Garg, chairman and managing director of NHPC, also confirmed the plans. “We have been requesting that at least we should get a project through the joint venture route if not on an ownership basis," he said.

“We have already submitted the detailed project report for Mangnechu project and are preparing the DPRs (detailed project reports) for 670MW Chamkharchhu and 1,800MW Kuri-Gongri hydroelectric projects in Bhutan. We have been requesting our ministry in securing the execution of these projects," Garg added.

India already has power-grid links with Bhutan and has helped it develop the Tala and Chukha projects. The two countries signed an agreement in July 2006 to facilitate, encourage and promote the development and construction of hydropower projects and associated transmission systems, as well as trade in electricity.

India also has a memorandum of understanding with Bhutan to import 5,000MW of power by 2020, of which around 1,400MW is already being imported. India has increased its energy diplomacy in the neighbourhood and has also been trying to engage countries such as Myanmar, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

India has a hydropower generation capacity of 36,085MW and plans to add another 15627MW by 2012. While the country has a potential of 300,000MW, around 145,000MW is exploitable.

Graphic by Ahmed Raza Khan / Mint

Illustration by Jayachandran / Mint

Compiled by Jacob P. Koshy / Mint