External Affairs minister S Jaishankar, witnessing the signing ceremony via video conferencing

New Delhi: India and Bhutan on Monday signed a concession agreement for the 600 MW Kholongchhu (joint venture) hydroelectric project (KHEL).

The Royal Government of Bhutan and Kholongchhu Hydro Energy Limited signed the agreement in Thimphu, in virtual presence of S Jaishankar, India’s external affairs minister; Lyonpo Dr Tandi Dorji, foreign minister of Bhutan; among other senior officials.

Ambassador of India to Bhutan and Ambassador of Bhutan to India were also present during the signing ceremony which was held through video conferencing.

Witnessing the ceremony, S Jaishankar tweeted, “Happy to join @FMBhutan & @BhutanMoea in witnessing the signing of Concession Agreement for the 600 MW Kholongchhu Hydroelectric Power Project for #CleanEnergy. Another example of the symbiotic cooperation between two special friends.”

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The 600 MW run-of-the-river project is located on the lower course of the Kholongchhu River in Trashiyangtse district of Eastern Bhutan. The project envisages an underground powerhouse of four 150 MW turbines with water impounded by a concrete gravity dam of 95 meters height. 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.

According to reports, the agreement marks a shift in relations for the two countries as it is the first time an India-Bhutan hydro-power project will be constructed as a 50:50 joint venture, and not as a government-to-government agreement. The project is expected to be completed in the second half of 2025.

The MEAs of both the neigbouring countries emphasized on the importance of the hydro power development as an “important pillar of mutually beneficial bilateral economic cooperation.”

“They also recalled the trust, co-operation and mutual respect that has long characterized the unique and special friendship, anchored in mutual understanding and reinforced by a shared cultural heritage and strong people to people links between India and Bhutan,” said a release from Ministry of external affairs.

Under India-Bhutan partnership, four hydropower projects have been built in the last 30 years totaling a capacity of 2,100 MW, and another two are under construction.

The 720 MW Mangdechhu hydroelectric project was jointly inaugurated in August last year by Prime Ministers of India and Bhutan.

“With this, four (04) hydroelectric projects of bilateral cooperation (336 MW Chukha HEP, 60 MW Kurichhu HEP, 1020 MW Tala HEP and 720 MW Mangdechhu HEP), totaling over 2100 MW, are already operational in Bhutan,” the release said.

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