Ratna Sansar Shrestha, fca
People in Bhutan must have felt magnanimous after reading the Time of India (ToI) article on June 20, 2009 that read: ‘Bhutan PM pledges power aid for India’. For a tiny country like Bhutan to be able to ‘aid’ its giant neighbor India must be a thrill. Advocates of the Bhutan model in Nepal are also salivating at the possibility of wielding immense power (not electricity!) over India by exporting hydropower, in the hope that control will be in Nepali hands.
Of course, they will have forgotten that India will circumvent the possibility of Nepal controlling the flow of power by demanding that they get to ensure the ‘security’ of such projects, by using Indian security personnel. The Karnali Chisapani project, meant to generate 10,800MW, was shelved in the mid-70s by the then Nepali government for this very reason.
These people have their collective heads in the sand for a couple of other reasons. Bhutan’s example illustrates a few ground realities. Kuensel online, Bhutan’s national English-language news portal, reported on July 22, 2009 that “contrary to existing notions, a new study says it is economically more beneficial for Bhutan to supply power to its industries than export to India.” The report details findings from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the royal audit authority, which note that the government makes a profit of Nu 64 million if it exports electricity to India, compared to a profit of Nu 152.8 million from tax receipts if it supplied 15 major national industries. Economic Affairs Minister Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk was reported to have said, “Electricity is the only plentiful raw material, which can be used by our industries to compete with external competitors by value adding on the reasonably priced power.” Ministry Secretary Dasho Sonam Tshering reportedly alluded to
, which “also used its hydropower to initially bankroll its industrial development through power intensive metallurgy and fertilizers”. Norway
The export-oriented mode of hydropower development in
has threatened its own industrial development. As early as 2008 Zeenews.com reported that “a severe power shortage may hit Bhutan Bhutan in view of new industries readying up to kick start operations even as is banking on borrowing electricity from the Himalayan country by 2020.” Bhutan Power Corporation Limited is reported to have confirmed this, indicating there will not be enough power for the industrialization of Bhutan. Kuensel online has echoed this anxiety as recently as February 2010, suggesting setting up captive thermal power plants and in May 2010, even import of electricity from India! India