River potential

alternate hydro power

National Geographic has rated rafting on the Drangme Chhu – from the Trashigang Bridge to the Royal Manas Park – as one of the 25 Best New Trips for 2010.

But it’s not just the Drangme Chhu. Every one of our major river systems provides some of the world’s best rafting experiences. Dave Allardice of Ultimate Descents says that our rivers are:

A gigantic staircase rising from the Indian border to the high Himalayas of Tibet, the soaring peaks of Bhutan are an untapped treasure house of whitewater. The rivers are powerful and challenging.

And the National Geographic calls them:

A spillway for Himalayan snow and ice that roils into turquoise Class IV and V rapids through sheer granite walls.

So impressed were the editors of National Geographic Traveler magazine that they also included the Drangme Chhu decent as one of the world’s top 50 Tours of a Lifetime.

All this is good news.

But the good news will not last long. In fact, it will barely last two years. By 2012, construction on the 1800 MW Kuri-Gongri hydropower project will begin at the confluence of the Kuri Chhu and the Drangme Chhu. And further upstream, on the Kholong Chuu, construction on a 486 MW project will also commence in 2012.

So if you want to experience what the National Geographic is raving about, head to the Drangme Chhu … before 2012.

Photo credit: Bio Bio Expeditions


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  1. Yes, we have got amazing rivers cascading on our chaste mountain ranges. I have personally rafted the Chamkhar Chu and the Puna Tsang Chu. Fantastic experiences. However, it is yet to see how well we can extract the potentials of our rivers in terms of tourism and benefit all our people equitably. This is very important. Otherwise, it is the same as boasting about so many hydroelectric power dams in our country producing thousand megawatts of electricity but we still have people who are living in dimly lit homes with frequent power breakdowns and shortages and, in some places, people are still living in darkness!

  2. I agree fully! We need to save some rivers from hydropower plants. I also think that we are going overboard with these projects. Where is mindfullness and GNH?

  3. Fully agreed. Save some rivers for people interested in rafting.


  4. Sunny Side says


    I am also very apprehensive about this enthusiasm to put a damn on all our rivers. The justification so far has been that Bhutan’s Hydropower Projects are “Run-of-the-river Projects” and have minimal impact on the environment. However, with Sunkosh etc; that no longer prevails – not that ‘Run-of-the-river” systems are devoid of any significant social and environmental impacts.

    That are a bunch of sensible folks who advocate that the Hydro guys should keep their hands off one of the river basins, and the Drangme Chu is a good pick. However, the voices of these folks is seldom heard and mostly overcast by the voracious hydro people.

    Yes, hydro is important but the greed and temptation to put a turbine on any water body that moves is a bit too much. I think a more reasonable approach has to be adopted if we are to sustain other industries beyond hydropower.

    Otherwise, right now tourists complain of being “Dzonged” out. But in a decade or so they will complain of being “Dammed” out.

  5. Oh sounds like a great idea.Stop hydro power projects benefiting eastern Bhutan for a bunch of crazy Chilips!

    BTW, even if we are build these hydro plants, it does not mean an end to river rafting.The fact that the plant is a ‘run- off the river scheme’ means that there is a constant flow of river.Just need to get out at the dam site and continue rafting from the tailrace

  6. To build no dam at all but only conserve the natural state of our rivers is conservation extreme.
    To build so many dams and congest our rivers all over the place to harness hydropower alone is economic extreme.
    To only harness hydroelectric power without considering tourism prospects is a bad strategy.
    To only consider tourism prospects and not harness any hydroelectric power is sheer stupidity.
    Therefore let’s talk the extremes but walk the middle path.
    Let’s integrate all the extremes and find the middle path.
    All great rivers popular as tourist destinations for rafting adventures and sports are also the sites of hydroelectric power generation, one example I know well is the Hoover Dam over Colorado. Many beautiful parks, reservoirs and man-made lakes for tourism and recreation are created along the dams over these great rivers. They generate power, they create recreational environments and places to relax for their people, and they promote tourism. Shouldn’t we try it like that?
    This is important. Very important.

  7. I heard that there is a plan to develop recreational facilities similar to those suggested by Tangba along Punatsangchu. Can somebody clarify?


  8. hero with 1eye says

    we knew and i know about our river potentiality. i still remember as a child at the back of drangma chu,boat man from manas national park sailing peacefully and we used to imitate them,sitting on the old boat of Dasho Neshoka.
    so the problem is why did our government fail to introduce tourism there?????
    we talk about bringing 100000 tourist annually but fail to see such natural infrastructure, that might attract more tourist what we plan to do.
    there is reason why our government did not open tourism in zhemgang but there is also reason for its opening.
    government did not construct road in zhemgang and government can’t stop tourist visiting there.

  9. hero with 1eye says

    it is ‘at the bank of river drangma chuu not at the back of river back of drangma chu

  10. I couldn’t agree more with Tangba. They should really consider Eco-tourism and try to weigh tings first. Don’t you think?

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