With the inaugural of 720MW Mangdechhu Hydroelectric Plant and opening of official discussion on the Sunkosh, the biggest project targeted, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit is in a way commemorating five decades of hydropower cooperation between Bhutan and India.
The commissioning of Mangdechhu takes Bhutan’s installed power capacity to 2,326 MW from 1,606, an increase by 44.8 percent. Mangdechhu is the fourth project implemented under inter-government (IG) model.
The first project under the IG model was 336MW Chukha project financed with 60 percent grant and 40 loan grant from the government of India and commissioned in 1986.
The 1,020MW Tala and 60 MW Kurichhu were other projects implemented under IG model. The two projects of Punatshangchhu are also being implemented under the IG model with 70 percent loan and 30 percent grant.
Sunkosh, which has the potential to generate over 2,500MW of power is the priority for the government currently. Discussions during PM Modi’s visit will revolve around the modality of implementation and financing.
According to experts, IG model is a win-win situation for both the countries and best suited for a mega project. The situation of Punatshangchhu project cannot be construed as failure of IG model. With some changes in the system, a power engineer said, IG model could be much more efficient and transparent.
However, opening of formal discussions, according to officials is a major step ahead.
As tribute to five decades of hydropower cooperation between the two countries, the Indian Prime Minister will launch six stamps depicting hydropower projects between Bhutan and India.
The Indian foreign secretary during a press conference in New Delhi last week, said that Bhutan-India relations should move beyond hydropower projects into other sectors.
As a result, the Indian Prime Minister’s visit would augment the country’s journey into space, which has already taken off as a result of His Majesty The King’s vision to harness space resources and technologies. A division under the information and communication ministry has also been formed. Bhutan has also laughed a cube satellite a year ago. The inauguration of the ground station for South Asian Satellite (SAS), which was funded by GoI, will mark a milestone in taking forward His Majesty’s vision.
Bhutan would use the technology in areas like tele-medicine, tele-education, banking and television broadcasting. The remote sensing equipment of South Asia satellite is expected to enable collection of real-time weather data and help in observation of the geology of Bhutan.
The transponder from SAS is planned to be utilised for radio and television, connectivity to three off-grid gewogs (Soe, Naro, Lingzhi), disaster communications network and to backhaul redundancy for telecom operators.
The inter-connection between India Knowledge Network and DrukREN is expected to connect universities, research institutions, libraries, laboratories, healthcare and agricultural institutions of the two countries.
To this effect, a high-speed (10 Gigabit per second) fibre optics backbone network called Druk Research and Education Network (DrukREN) has been established interconnecting 25 research and education institutes in the country.
DrukREN will also facilitate participation of researchers in world class collaborative research projects such as radio-astronomy, telemedicine, crop research etc—both within and outside Bhutan.
The Department of Information Technology and Telecom (DITT) is already exploring telemedicine activities with Telemedicine Development Center of Asia (TEMDEC), Kyushu University Hospital, Japan in close consultation with the Ministry of Health.
In addition, Prime Minister Modi will also exchange several pre-signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoU).
With the objective to enhance aviation safety, establish cooperation in aircraft accident and accident investigation, training and sharing of information, a MoU will be exchanged between Indian Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation and Aircraft Investigation Unit with Bhutan’s Ministry of Information and Communications.
Under the MoU, each party will offer assistance and the use of air safety investigation facilities and equipment for aircraft accident and incident investigation. Specialist investigation training courses for investigators will also be introduced besides sharing information and facilitating meetings between officials and experts to exchange experiences, skills and technical knowledge.
Another MoU between the RUB and four leading Indian universities (National Institutes of Technology in Kanpur, Delhi, Calcutta and Bombay) will be exchanged.
It aims to inculcate academic cooperation with emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects and faculty exchanges. Areas of cooperation under these MoUs include visits and exchange of faculty, research scholars and students, exchange of information.
The MoU between the National Legal Institute of Bhutan and the National Judicial Academy of India is expected to encourage and promote judicial education. The programme includes exchange visits and attachments of judges and other judicial officials and participation in trainings, workshops, seminars and meetings, among others.
To develop academic and cultural exchange in the areas of legal education and research, another MoU between Jigme Singye Wangchuck School of Law (JSW Law) and the National School of India University (NSLIU) will be exchanged. This MoU would facilitate exchange of lecturers, students, scholars, researchers, teaching and research materials.