Tangsibji mini hydel was disconnected on May 30, 2017. This plant lit around 43 houses in Tangsibji village in Trongsa in the 80s. The boulders that were dug out during the East-West highway widening works blocked the water at the intake point in the middle of December 2016. Mr. Karma Leki, Bhutan Power Corporation’s (BPC) Division Manager in Trongsa said that he has written to the Department of Roads (DoR) to have the blockade and damages cleared at the earliest as the boulders are huge and cannot be cleared by men.
This hydel power plant being closed does not have much impact on the life of the people in the village. However, Mr. Leki feels that it remaining functional is important as it was a gift to them from Japan and holds sentimental value. The energy that the plant generates is synchronized with the eastern grid. Mr. Phub Dorji, BPC’s assistant technician stated that this plant has never broken down before,unlike many other mini hydels in the country. He further said that the engine is in good condition and can resume generation once the block is cleared. This mini Hydel is one of 10 in Bhutan and it generates 37.5 KVA.
Mr. Taugay Choidup, Chief Engineer of DoR in Trongsa, stated that he was unaware that a mini hydel is located below the highway. He further stated that what they were informed is that there is an irrigation channel below and the contractor has left the cutting incomplete at a stretch near Zalamchu fearing disruption to paddy cultivation. The cutting is planned to resume after the village completes paddy cultivation.The mini hydel is located a little above the Tangsibji village and is about 10 minutes walk from the village road.
The Kingdom of Bhutan has always had good relations with India. For the last 17 years it has also remained the biggest beneficiary of Indian foreign aid by both amount and share. Bhutan has remained India’s unfailing priority because of its strategic location, its dependence on India and its hydropower potential. Besides Bhutan, India provides aid to various other countries not only from this region but from other parts of the world as well. Other countries that India has been providing financial aid to include Afghanistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives and some African countries among others. However, the aid given to other countries by India has fluctuated over the years while in case of Bhutan it has always been constant.
Over the last nine years, Afghanistan has made it to the second spot and has been preferred over Nepal and Bangladesh which have been the traditional recipients. Indian aid to Sri Lanka has seen a lot of fluctuations; it fell 69% year-onyear in the financial year 2016-17, and rose 118% and 166% in 2012- 13 and 2009-10 respectively. In the pre-2007-08 period, Nepal was the second-largest recipient in all years except three, when Bangladesh held that position. Before the financial year 2007-08, the foreign ministry did not even report aid for Afghanistan individually. However, in eight of last 10 years, Afghanistan has held the second spot by share. Bhutan’s share has fallen by 10.45 percentage points in the last 17 years as other countries have been eating into its share but yet it has consistently held the first spot.
On November 12, 2016, India and Bhutan signed a new bilateral trade agreement which will help to enhance trade between the two countries. The agreement is aimed at making trade easier by making improvements in the existing procedures. An official statement issued by the Indian Commerce Ministry stated that this bilateral
agreement will focus on reducing the documentation required and also on adding more exit and entry points for Bhutan’s trade with other countries. It is expected that the signing of this agreement will not only provide a boost to trade but also further strengthen the already wonderfully cordial relations between the two countries.
The agreement was signed by India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman and Minister for
Economic Affairs, Bhutan Mr.Tengye Lyonpo Lekey Dorji. A bilateral meeting between Ms. Sitharaman and a high level
Bhutanese delegation led by Mr. Dorji also took place. In this meeting various issues related to bilateral trade, transit
and investment were discussed.The first agreement on trade and commerce between Bhutan and India was signed in 1972 and it has been renewed four times since then. The last agreement was renewed on July 28, 2006 and was valid till July 29, 2016. Its validity was later extended for a period of one year or till the date of coming into force of the new agreement, whichever is earlier.
The signing ceremony of the Exchange of Notes (E/N) for “The Project For Reconstruction Of Bridges On Primary National Highway Number 4” was heldin New Delhi, India on December 16, 2016. In this ceremony, the E/N was signed between the Ambassador of Japan to Bhutan, Mr. Kenji Hiramatsu and the Ambassador of Bhutan to Japan, Mr. Vetsop Namgyel. This project aims to reconstruct bridges on the primary national highway and has a total budget of 2,156 Million Yen.
In a press release issued by the Embassy of Japan, it was stated that the Government of Japan hopes that the Grant Aid will ensure efficient and stable transportation between the two countries which will help to further strengthen the relations of friendship and cooperation between Japan and Bhutan. These two countries are celebrating the 30th anniversary year of the establishment of their diplomatic relations.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has committed to help the Bhutanese refugees living in camps in Nepal by providing a US $ 1 million aid. The money will be provided to World Food Programme (WFP) and it will help to provide food to over 17000 refugees. WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assistssome 80 million people in around 75 countries.USAID has been regularly contributing to WFP for the past ten years and at present it is the biggest supporter of the programme. Between the years 2006 and 2016, USAID has contributed close to US$34 million to WFP. WFP has been working hard to make life easier for the Bhutanese refugees. In the first quarter of 2016, it distributed some 730 metric tons of food to them. Additionally, extra rations were provided to those ofthem who are children under the age of five, pregnant women and nursing mothers and HIV and TB patients. WFP is also working to help promote and enable self-reliance among the refugees by providing tools, seeds, and guidance to them for cultivating and maintaining their own vegetable gardens. The refugee community is happy on receiving this aid and WFP Representative and Country Director Ms. Pippa Bradford has also expressed her gratefulness on behalf of WFP.
The Secretary for the Ministry of Power, Mr. Pradeep Kumar Pujari, has stated that India will continue to buy energy from Bhutan. This statement was made in connection to another related news which stated that India is driven to expand its power generation capacity by three times and reach the 800 GW mark by the year 2030. The planis to add 100 MW of solar power by the year 2022 and also work on harnessing wind power by adding 8 MW to its capacity each year. The Indian Government is aiming at providing electricity to every village and household by the year 2021.
However, even after increased power generation capacity India will still continue exporting power whichmeans that Bhutan’s energy market in India is fully secure. There’s a huge latent demand for electricity in India where the current per capita energy consumption is 1,100 units on an average. However, this average is limited by the lack of availability of enough electricity and also does not take into account the people living in regions which have no access to electricity. Once more electricity is available for supply, the demand for it and consumption will automatically go up. Making use of renewable sources of energy such as solar power and wind power is a good view to meet the energy requirements of the country but they depend on factors such as sunlight and wind direction and thereforeoutput could fluctuate.
Thermal power is the main source of electricity in India at the present but thermal power Plants require about 24 hours to commission after every load shedding. Hydro power plants are required to balance the grid in such a situation and the more we move towards other renewable sources of energy, more hydroelectricity will be needed. In spite of tapping into various forms of energy production the need for importing electricity will still remain. Bhutan might soon get a new market for its power as besides India, Bangladesh is also interested in importing electricity from Bhutan.