Thimphu, May 17: Friendly ties between India and Bhutan took another step forward with Prime Ministers Dr. Manmohan Singh and Jigmi Y. Thinley dedicating the 1020 megawatt Tala Hydroelectric Project in Bhutan's Chukha Valley to the two countries.
An impressive and colourful ceremony marked the dedication that followed Dr. Singh's address to a joint session of the Bhutan Parliament. It started off with dignitaries and invited guests and media trooping into the courtyard of the Tashichchdzong, or the compound that houses the National Assembly and the National Council to be seated. Prime Ministers Singh and Thinley were thereafter escorted into the courtyard by their respective officials.
A religious ceremony involving the recitation of Buddhist chants by red-robed attired monks followed. Another religious head made an offering of water to the elements and the distinguished guests present on the occasion.
Bhutan's Minister of Economic Affairs Khandu Wangchuk then delivered a welcome address and briefed the gathering about the current state of Indo-Bhutanese ties, especially in the economic and hydroelectric sectors.
He said that the dedication of the Tala Hydroelectric Power project was another symbol of the strong and warm ties enjoyed by both India and Bhutan in various sectors. That the relationship continued to blossom was reflected in the fact that the Indian Prime Minister was also laying the foundation stone of the Punatsangchu-I power project and that both governments were actively considering implementation of the detailed project reports (DPRs) for the Punatsangchu-II and Mangdechhu power projects, besides four other projects.
He also confirmed from the Bhutanese side that every attempt would be made to enhance and meet the new power export target of 10,000 megawatts by the year 2020.
Wangchuk concluded by saying that Bhutan continued to look forward to its improving ties with India, and was extremely honoured that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had come to Thimphu at a time when the country was undergoing a landmark administrative change from an absolute monarchy to a democratic constitutional monarchy.
The Tala power project, which was commissioned on March 30, 2007, is expected to further boost the tapping of the estimated 30,000 megawatt of hydro-power resources that Bhutan possesses. As of now the identified techno-commercially feasible potential is about 23,500 megawatt out which only 1488 megawatt installed capacity is exploited at present.
The Tala project is an environment friendly run of the river scheme. The project area starts from the site of the Wangkha dam (about three kilometers downstream from the Chukha power house) to the power house at Tabji, which is located about 30 kilometers downstream.
The construction involves a 92-meter high and 130-meter wide dam, a diversion tunnel 6.8 meter in diameter and 356 meters long, three desilting chambers, a headrace tunnel, a surge shaft, two pressure shafts, an underground power station and transformer cavern and a tailrace tunnel. It also has a interlinking sub-station at Malbase near Phuentshoeling and two double circuit transmission lines of 140 circuit kilometer length from Tala to the India-Bhutan border.
After completion, the project will generate 4865 million units of power in an average year. It would also provide 1122 megawatt of peaking power throughout the year. Surplus power generated from the project will be exported to India through 400 KV transmission lines to a pooling point in Siliguri, and from there to India's Eastern and Northern Grids. By Ashok Dixit