A concession agreement for the first Indo-Bhutan joint venture hydroelectric project was signed on Monday, paving the way for the commencement of its construction and other related works.
The concession agreement for the 600 MW Kholongchhu project between the Bhutanese government and the Kholongchhu Hydro Energy Limited was signed in the virtual presence of External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Bhutanese counterpart Tandi Dorji, a Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) statement said.
"The signing of the concession agreement will lead to commencement of construction and other works of this first joint venture hydroelectric project between India and Bhutan. The project is expected to be completed in the second half of 2025," it said.
The 600 MW run-of-the-river project is located on the lower course of the Kholongchhu river in eastern Bhutan's Trashiyangtse district.
The project envisages an underground powerhouse of four 150 MW turbines with water impounded by a concrete gravity dam of 95 metres height, the MEA said.
It will be implemented by Kholongchhu Hydro Energy Limited, a joint venture company formed between Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC) of Bhutan and Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited (SJVNL) of India, the statement said.
This is the first ever joint venture project to be implemented in Bhutan, Jaishankar said, congratulating both partners -- SJVNL and DGPC -- for this remarkable feat.
Describing the agreement as a "milestone", he said the commencement of construction activities of the project will create economic and employment opportunities in Bhutan in this critical time.
"Our two countries are together in fighting this global pandemic. Government of India has provided support, as it should, to Bhutan in terms of medical equipment, kits and medicines as per Royal Government of Bhutan's requirements," Jaishankar said.
"Besides continuing with our developmental partnership, we have also ensured uninterrupted supply of essentials and other goods to Bhutan despite the lockdowns," he said.
Noting that the hydropower sector has been the most visible symbol of the mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation between the two countries, Jaishankar said the recently completed 720 MW Mangdechhu Hydro Electric Power Project has brought the Indian government-assisted installed capacity to more than 2,100 MW.
"With continued working together, we are in process of expediting the completion of other ongoing projects including the 1,200 MW Punatsangchhu-1, 1020MW Punatsangchhu-2 and now the 600 MW Kholongchhu HEP," he said.
Jaishankar said the India-Bhutan special ties have not only benefited the two nations, but have also set an example for the whole world of two neighbours, living and working together for shared growth and welfare bound by a deep friendship.
"Our time-tested relations, characterised by so much trust and understanding, have matured over the years and have been sustained by the tradition of regular high-level visits and dialogues between the two countries," he said.
As a special and privileged partner, India stands together with Bhutan in dealing with the health and economic challenges posed by this pandemic, he said.
Bhutan Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma, and senior government officials, including foreign secretaries of India and Bhutan, secretary (power), Government of India, ambassador of India to Bhutan, and ambassador of Bhutan to India, were also present at the signing ceremony held through videoconferencing, the MEA said.
The hydropower sector is the flagship area of India-Bhutan bilateral cooperation, it said.
The Mangdechhu hydroelectric project was jointly inaugurated earlier in August 2019 by the prime ministers of India and Bhutan.
With this, four hydroelectric projects of bilateral cooperation (336 MW Chukha HEP, 60 MW Kurichhu HEP, 1,020 MW Tala HEP and 720 MW Mangdechhu HEP), totalling over 2,100 MW, are already operational in Bhutan, according to the MEA.