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Bhutan mum on project

Royal Manas National Park

Guwahati, May 11: The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has still not provided information to the World Heritage Committee on the impact of the Mangdechhu hydroelectric project on the Manas National Park which shares its border with the Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan.

Though Bhutan was asked to provide information according to the decision taken at the 36th committee meeting in 2012, the committee said at the time of writing this report, no further information was provided by Bhutan on the proposed Mangdechhu hydroelectric project.

“The proposed Mangdechhu hydro-electric project in Bhutan, and its potential impact on the property, remains a concern,” said the committee in its report, which will be discussed in the 38th meeting next month in Doha, Qatar.

Mangdechhu hydroelectric project (720MW) is one amongst the 10 hydroelectric projects planned under the 10,000MW hydropower development of the 2020 programme of the Royal Government of Bhutan, supported by the government of India.

The committee in its draft decision has requested Bhutan to submit a copy of the environmental impact assessment of the Mangdechhu hydroelectric project including an assessment of potential impact on the property’s outstanding universal value and cumulative impact in relation to the existing Kurichu dam, in conformity with International Union for Conservation of Nature’s World Heritage advice note on environmental assessment.

The IUCN has recommended that strategic environmental assessments are undertaken for large-scale proposals, proposals comprising multiple projects or landscape-scale land use proposals (for example large dams, multiple road development proposals, and large-scale commercial agriculture development). The cumulative impacts of these types of proposals may have a serious negative effect on the outstanding universal value of the property.

Bhutan has proposed the inclusion of the Royal Manas National Park as a World Heritage Site but no decision has been taken yet. It has been included in the tentative list of the World Heritage Committee.

The IUCN in 2012 had informed the committee that it has received reports that two hydroelectric projects in Bhutan, the existing 60MW Kurichu and the proposed 720MW Mangdechhu, are likely to affect the forests and waterbodies of the park in a way which would reduce the ecosystem’s ability to support wildlife. Both the Kurichu and Mangdechhu rivers contribute to the flow of the Manas-Beki river system, which considerably sustains the park.

The Kurichu dam has already affected the forests and wildlife of the park, when in 2004 it released excess water that caused an unprecedented flood in the Manas-Beki river system, washing away parts of the property and killing a large number of wild animals, the committee in the 2012 report said.