Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Dark Side Of Our Hydropower Projects II

I am neither on FaceBook, nor on the Tweeter. Thus, I am not privy to the substance or the direction of discussions happening there - but I am told that a huge ruckus is being kicked up there. That is good - debates are important, so are contrarian views. The process of consensus building can only happen through healthy and frank discussions and active participation of the people.

However, contrary to what is being put out in the FaceBook and Tweeter, central to my drive for keeping one undammed and free flowing river is: the absolute and paramount need to preserve one free flowing river for the benefit of our future generations, and the ongoing economic devastation caused by our recent hydro-power projects. It has never been about the environmental destruction, although that too is a very, very pertinent issue. In order that there is no confusion, I would like to state categorically that:

1. there is no proof of the hydro-power projects ever benefiting the common man – neither
    the gewogs, nor the Dzongkhags where they are located. Instead they have contributed to social
    problems and loss of human habitat and livelihood.

2. The recent hydro-power projects have caused immense economic devastation resulting in
    strange problems the burden of which the common man has to shoulder. If you beleive that to be true,
     please sign the petition at:


Let me narrate two cases that will demonstrate why hydro-power projects have not contributed to the villagers in the vicinity and, why there is a need to seriously reconsider our hydro-power policy.

The case of the weeping MP 
Over tea yesterday evening at the Karma’s Coffee, I met a friend who told me that Ex-Member of the National Council of Chhukha Dzongkhag, Ms. Tshewang Lhamo, would cry tears of despair every time she returned from her visits to her constituency. She wept because she was powerless to do anything for the people of her constituency who elected her to represent them in the Upper House of the Parliament. She cried because majority of people in her constituency were living in abject poverty.

So what happened to all the riches that hydro-power projects are supposed to bring to the community in the vicinity of the projects? It is a myth - it has always been a myth and it will always remain a myth!

Strange case of fuel import and Rupee reserve depletion 
Last Friday, I was with three friends in Chubachhu area talking about the oft-repeated “Cost-Plus” and “Self-liquidating” loans for hydro-power projects. One of them told me something rather strange and unbelievable. He said that the funds for the Punasangchhu hydro-power projects are not routed through the Finance Ministry but released directly to the projects. I was aghast! How is that possible?

Then, by sheer coincidence, yesterday morning a friend sent me a SMS that read: “Do you know that 70% of the fuel imported by BOD is consumed by the Punasangchhu projects?” That was a shocker! If it is true, here then is a case of the Indian Rupee payment not getting credited to the government account but the government having to release to BOD Indian Rupees to import petroleum products from India.

Do you see the connection? Could it be that one reason that is contributing to Indian Rupee shortage could be because of this strange arrangement? And, by implication, do you now see why the current method of doing our hydro-power is bad for Bhutan?

Let us stop flaunting people and their cause as a means to further some unknown agenda. We all know that it will not be the common man who will reap any benefit from these ill conceived and poorly executed projects - but the rich, the powerful and the politicians that will derive the most benefit. The poor people will lose their land and their livelihood - because the rich and the powerful will buy off their ancestral homes and farmlands, when these projects happen.


  1. Dear Author,

    You are strong supporter in spreading the message and propaganda of PDP during the election campaign period. Why don't you be bold and come out in the National BBS TV and invite a debate among the think tanks, economists, politicians, bureaucrats and other imminent person etc to inform our illiterate people. We would also want some more research and evidence to substantiate your findings from hearsay or one individual who may have incorrect information.

  2. Aue Yeshey, Since you are not on Facebook let me present to you a brief overview of the debate that had happened on my wall since I share the link to your petition: http://www.passudiary.com/2015/09/why-is-it-between-chamkhar-chhu-and.html

    After my blog on this issue, more debate has occurred and MP Lekey had interesting things to say:

    "I would suggest that since most of the petitioners are elites living in Thimphu, expatriates, environmental conservationists, or fellow Khengpas who seem to have given up on Kheng or generally those whose lives and livelihoods would not be affected by what happens in Kheng whatsoever, perhaps they Passang PaSsu Tshering should raise 1B US$ for the Gov to give up the project and a significant portion of this would go into Kheng Development project. If you can do this before June 2016, I as people's elected representative in the Gov would try to talk to the people. Without such a concrete proposal, Kheng should not be taken for a ride or as Nawang P Phuntsho explicitly puts it, fend for ourselves. It is better for the petitioners to put their money where their mouth is!"

  3. Dear Passu,

    Thank you for posting your comments in here.

    Please accept my sympathies - the onus of creating the Kheng Development Project amounting to US$1B has now been squarely placed on you. May I suggest that it would be simpler if you petitioned the Royal Government of Bhutan, on behalf of the neglected Khengpas, rather than contemplate the impossible task of raising that kind of fund.