The agreement, which was signed on 29 June by Sh. Sanjay Garg, Managing Director of KHEL, and Sh. Karma P Dorji, Director of the Department of Hydropower & Power Systems (DHPS) of Bhutan, was overseen via video conference by Dr S. Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister of the Government of India, and Dr Tandi Dorji, Foreign Minister of Bhutan.
The run-of-river project will be implemented by Kholongchhu Hydro Energy, a joint venture between Bhutan’s Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC), the country’s hydropower plant operator and developer, and Indian hydropower producer Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN), a joint venture of the Government of India and the Government of the northern state of Himachal Pradesh.
The first joint venture hydroelectric project between India and Bhutan will be built on the lower course of the Kholongchhu river in Trashiyangtse District. The project will feature a 95 m-high concrete gravity dam and an underground powerhouse of four 150 MW turbines, which will generate average annual output of 2569 GWh. The project, which will cost an estimated INR 46.33 billion (US$ 618.9 million) is expected to be commissioned in the second half of 2025.
Kholongchhu will be the seventh hydropower project to be built in Bhutan with financial support from the Government of India. To date four plants totalling 2136 MW have been commissioned, supplying power for both the domestic market and for export to India. The 336 MW Chhukha run-of-river station on the river Wangchhu in Chhukha Dzongkhag in Western Bhutan, entered full commercial service in 1988, followed in 2002 by the 60 MW Kurichhu run-of-river scheme at Gyalpozhing, Mongar, on the Kurichhu river in Eastern Bhutan.
The 1020 MW Tala run-of-river plant project, the country’s single biggest powerplant, on the river Wangchu in Chukha District, was commissioned in 2007 while the 720 MW Mangdechhu hydropower plant on the river Mangdechhu in the Trongsa Dzongkhag district of central Bhutan was fully commissioned in October 2019 (see H&D Issue 5, 2019). Construction of the 1020 MW Punatsangchhu II and 1200 MW Punatsangchhu I plants are scheduled to be completed in 2022 and 2024, respectively. An intergovernmental agreement was signed by the Governments of Bhutan and India in April 2014 for the development of the Chamkharchhu I (770 MW), Wangchhu (570 MW), Bunakha (180 MW), and Sankosh (2585 MW) projects, which are to be developed as joint ventures between DGPC and Indian partners.