Just as he had entered Bhutan on Losar in February 1997, he exited the hydropower sector in Bhutan without fanfare. Hemmed in within a tight schedule, Mr R N Khazanchi handed over charges of the posts of Managing Director of both PHPA I and PHPA II on April 30, 2018. It has been an incredibly long and successful inning as the head of three mega hydropower projects in Bhutan – both the duration and the length of service beyond his superannuation is a testament of the measure of his invaluable performance and contributions.
I worked with him for three years as Chief Engineer in THPA, and one and half years as JMD in PHPA I&II.
He came to Bhutan with a potent mix of design, contracts and site experiences which were put to immediate use in the implementation of the exceptionally challenging 1,020MW Tala Hydropower Project. With this 819m head project into its 12th year of operation, we forget the more than 100km of roads, equally extensive electric distribution lines, other infrastructure that had to be built specifically for the project, and the level of competencies both in India and Bhutan in 1997. He made substantial improvements beyond those in DPR in the construction of the project, enabling commissioning in 2006. Mr Khazanchi derives, justified satisfaction in knowing that Tala Plant will pay off its loan by the end of this year.
As our records will testify, very few engineers joined the hydropower sector between the commissioning of the 336 MW Chhukha Hydropower Project in 1988 and start of the Tala Project in 1997. I assume that this was due to a perceived lack of opportunity for the profession during this period. Significant number of Bhutanese engineers started entering service only from 2001 with Tala Project absorbing bulk of this human resource during the period. At the time of handover by Mr Khazanchi of Tala Plant to DGPC in April 2009, only 12 out of 798 employees were foreigners. Today, at the time of departure of Mr Khazanchi, there are more than 142 Bhutanese professionals, equivalent to RCSC Grade 6 and above, who have grown professionally under his leadership, and are serving, many in leadership roles, this Kingdom well in multiple organizations like BHSL, BPC, BT, CDCL, DGPC, KHEL, MHPA, PHPA I, PHPA II, RGOB and THyE.
I myself learned a great deal from him during my years in Tala. He didn’t have to teach, you just had to observe him make decisions during meetings and note the manner in which challenges were confronted. These learnings and experiences served me well later while overseeing projects like Tsibjalumchhu Diversion Scheme, Dagachhu Project, Nikachhu Project, etc.
Mr Khazanchi is known for making well-reasoned, quick, innovative and bold decisions – and in being tenacious. After the closure of the Diversion Tunnel and impounding of the reservoir of Tala Project in December 2005, it was realized that major strengthening was required of the spillway Radial Gates. Just the available single set of Stop Log Gates would have considerably delayed the strengthening of the gates and, thereby, commissioning of the project. While approving purchase of second set costing more than Nu 10 million, which would serve no purpose after the strengthening works, the concerned officer submitted that besides enquiry by oversight agencies there was no space to store them after their short duration but highly impactful purpose was served. Mr Khazanchi ordered to dump them in the reservoir!
Because of the unfortunate circumstances of both Punatsangchhu I&II Projects undergoing trying challenges, some may not fully understand or appreciate the immense contributions Mr Khazanchi has made to the hydropower sector in Bhutan. Where he could have completed three mega projects in Bhutan, situations beyond his control have determined otherwise. However, we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel in both Puna projects. He deserved better; and deserves our understanding of the ground realities.
I cannot help notice that a major part of Mr Khazanchi’s heart will remain in Bhutan. Even as a special invitee at the Authority Meetings on May 3, 2018, one could not help notice his continuing deep interests and concerns for the two projects. I know he cares for Bhutan’s welfare. As the head of three large bilateral organizations for more than two decades, he has also contributed to the advancement of the friendly relationship between Bhutan and India. His physical and mental vitality at his age putting to shame those half his age, I am sure he will continue to contribute to the growth of the hydropower sector both in India and Bhutan.
His Majesty The King awarded the Druk Thuksey to Mr Khazanchi on December 17, 2012.
As he departs Bhutan, Mr Khazanchi leaves a lasting legacy in the three projects and, more importantly, in all the professionals in Bhutan whose lives he has touched meaningfully. Thank you, Mr Khazanchi, DT. May your tribe increase!
Dorji P. Phuntshok