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‘Melamchi water will be delayed’

- CHANDAN KUMAR MANDAL, Kathmandu
The Dashain deadline for project completion won’t be met as daily progress of work inside tunnel continues to fall behind schedule

Aug 25, 2018-The deadline for completing the Melamchi Water Supply Project ahead of Dashain in October won’t be met as the daily progress of work inside the tunnel continues to fall behind schedule.

After achieving a breakthrough in the 27.5km tunnel excavation in April this year, the government had announced that the residents of Kathmandu would be able to drink water from the Melamchi river in the following three months.

However, officials told the Post that a series of arguments between the government and the Italian contractor Cooperativa Muratori e Cementisti (CMC) di Ravenna has pushed the project completion date further behind schedule.

Nepali officials said the Italian group has not kept its own commitment to expediting the work after tunnel digging was over in the spring.

In order to meet the deadline less than two months away, the CMC must work at a pace of completing 270m tunnel work daily. But the progress has been inconsistent, according to Rajendra Raj Panta, senior division engineer with the Melamchi Water Supply Development Board.

“If we calculate the current progress, then the given deadline looks next to impossible,” Panta said. “The contractor has not worked as per the agreement.”

So far, only 9.5km of the tunnel has been laid with concrete. According to officials, only 3,600 metres of tunnel work was finished in the 60 days since both the parties signed a new agreement.

The project was stalled for some time in June after the CMC billed the government for additional money. The Italian contractor sought Rs1.65 billion from the government for miscellaneous works, including additional man hours spent on an open cut at the headwork site after the 2015 earthquake.

Nepal has paid Rs280 million to the CMC for 60,000 cubic metres of open cut at the headwork site. While the Dispute Adjudication Board is still hearing the issue of additional payment, the CMC and the other parties agreed in spring to carry on the task.

On April 26, representatives of the Nepal government and the CMC prepared an action plan, enlisting all tunnel activities to be carried out between May and August 30. That plan had set a target of diverting Melamchi water to Sundarijal by August 15.

The CMC was supposed to complete 210 metres of tunnel concretisation daily, according to the action plan.

The government team and the high-level CMC team, led by its board of directors representative Paolo Porcelli, signed an agreement on July 22 to channel water to Sundarijal before September 30. Based on the agreement, the Water Supply Ministry had prematurely announced that the residents of Kathmandu Valley would have access to water from Melamchi towards mid-October.

The much-awaited project is expected to divert 170 million litres of water from Melmachi in Sindhupalchok to Kathmandu Valley in the first phase.

Published: 25-08-2018 07:54

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