That the Construction Development Corporation Ltd is ready to take on large contract work means a lot to the huge Bhutanese construction industry.
As the first Bhutanese company that could take up tunnelling at the Kholongchhu project, the company is embarking on a huge project that until recently, Bhutanese could only imagine about. The company is busy gearing up for its first major project. It is a huge challenge.
There are numerous tunnels built in the country, almost all for hydropower projects. None of them were built by Bhutanese, private or government. Tunnelling is a huge work component of building hydro projects. There are plenty to be built as we plan to harness as much clean power as we can.
The work is open for all. Only the qualification and experience specified in open tenders restrict Bhutanese from trying. This will change. And if Bhutanese engineers, technicians and workers can do it, it will be a coming of age for the construction industry.
The CDCL should lead by example. Today it is seen as a mere competitor to the private sector. There is some truth in it. They should not compete for works that the private sector can take up. With resources, expertise and government support, it should be different.
The private sector should benefit from CDCL’s experience from taking major works. Our private sector claims that they too are now poised to take on bigger projects like hydropower. There are big private companies that can take up major projects. Today, most are restricted to smaller jobs in big projects.
It may be too early to conclude but if CDCL gets into bigger projects, big companies could tie up sharing resources and technical knowhow. CDCL is thinking big and training a workforce including engineers. This is good for the private sector.
This could also provide an answer to the unemployment problem. Besides, we could see the benefit of building mega projects with our own resources. It will help solve the rupee crisis, which has a short-term solution as of now. The hydropower project is blamed for draining Indian rupees from the country.
The money that we get in grants or loans will stay in the economy if Bhutanese can take up mega projects. The local financial institutions will also benefit, as they will be involved in financing the projects.
Bhutanese companies will not be competing with foreign ones. Since we began constructing power projects 37 years ago, our closest friend and neighbour, India generously supported us in realising our hydropower dream. It was not only restricted to the mutual benefit of harnessing clean energy from our fast flowing rivers. There was more to it.
The hope was also that as Bhutan and India built the projects together, there will be transfer of knowhow and technology. It is in India’s interest to see a stable and peaceful Bhutan. The last ambassador to Bhutan said it is up to Bhutan to define its priorities. The priority now is involving our companies, if they are capable, in building hydropower projects.