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Bhutan could become South Asia's powerhouse

Bhutan may become S Asia's hydroelectric powerhouse and can export energy to the tune of 5,000 MW to India over the next decade.

india Updated: Mar 09, 2006 11:57 IST

Bhutan may soon become South Asia's hydroelectric powerhouse and can export energy to the tune of nearly 5,000 MW to India over the next decade.

"By 2016 we hope to export about 5,000 MW of power to India with our government giving topmost priority to the energy sector," a senior Bhutanese government official told the agency by telephone from the capital Thimphu, requesting anonymity.

At present Bhutan exports about 500 MW of power to India and the supply is expected to reach 2,500 MW by October this year with a massive hydroelectric power plant in the Himalayan kingdom scheduled to become operational soon.

The Himalayan countries of Bhutan and Nepal have the highest share of hydroelectric power in South Asia. Bhutan's hydropower potential is estimated at 30,000 MW and is the primary source of the country's commercial energy.

"Proceeds of hydroelectricity exports to India account for about 45 percent of our government's revenue and is the mainstay of our economic growth," the official said.

Bhutan has also agreed to have a 750-mile (1,200-km) transmission line to export power to India.

India's Tata Power Company and the Power Grid Corporation have formed a partnership to construct the 1,020-MW Tala hydropower project in Bhutan and help in building the transmission line.

"This would be a major leap forward in our bid to become an economically self-reliant nation in the years ahead," the official said.

Prior to tapping its huge hydropower potential, the major energy source in Bhutan was fuel-wood, kerosene and liquefied petroleum gas used for domestic purposes, followed by diesel and petrol, predominantly used for transport.

Efforts are also on to bring Bhutan on to the world railway map with India agreeing to help the largely Buddhist nation in fulfilling its dream project of having a trans-border railway linkage between the two countries.

The official said technical experts from Indian Railways were conducting a feasibility survey and would be completing the study by this year-end.

Construction work for the railway project is expected to begin by 2007.

According to the preliminary survey reports by Indian Railways, there could be at least five border transit points to Bhutan - two from West Bengal and three from Assam in India's northeast.

"Once the rail linkage comes through Bhutan could make rapid strides in economic growth," the official said.