Print Edition - 2014-12-23  |  Development

Timely completion possible if work keeps up current pace

  • Interview Ghanashyam Bhattarai
 Timely completion possible if work keeps up current pace

Dec 22, 2014-

Melamchi Water Supply Project (MWSP) promises to end the shortage of drinking water inside Kathmandu Valley by 2016. With less than two years remaining for the project deadline to end, various sides have expressed concern that the project may not be completed on time. Ghanashyam Bhattarai, executive director at the Melamchi Water Supply Development Board, who had earlier handled the Project Implementation Directorate talks with the Post about the project’s status and the challenges that lie ahead to finish the project on time. Excerpts:

What is the present status of the project?

The construction work is taking place in all three adit sections--- Ambathan, Gyalthum and Sindhu both at upstream and downstream sections simultaneously, with some place achieving the daily average of 10 metres per day while some have very slow pace of 1 metre per day. Similarly, the tunnel construction work is going at an average rate of 600-800 metres per month while the required rate is one kilometre to complete the project on time. Of the three adit sections, the average daily tunnel construction work is going at a rate of 31 metres, but in Gyanthum area it is only 1 metre per day. If we can increase it to 5 metres per day in Gyanthum section and in Ambathan section from one metre to five metre daily, then we can achieve the required 40 metres per day average to meet the deadline of February 2016. As of December 21, the progress was reported at 34.3 percent. Of the total 26.5 kilometre tunnel required to divert the water to supply to Kathmandu Valley, around nine kilometres have been completed so far. This month, 525 metres tunnel was dug and we are expecting the work to complete on additional 300 metres by the end of this month. In total it will be 800 metres this month, which is likely to help to meet the deadline of 2016, that is if the pace is sustained in the coming months as well.

The project has already missed several deadlines since its inception in 2003. Will the people of Kathmandu Valley get water by 2016 as been told by the project management this time?

There is a growing concern and pressure for timely completion of the project. Recently a group of lawmakers visited the site for inspection and more are going to visit in the coming days. The increasing visits have not only raised the concern, but has put pressure on the contractor and implementing agency to complete the project on scheduled time. The contractors have not been able to achieve the required pace as promised earlier, but if we see the curve, even though it is very slow, there is a gradual increment. If we can expedite the construction works at some adit sections that are facing problems, either due to contractors’ slow pace or due to technical problems like poor geological structure, all construction works related with tunnel, the major component of the project, will be done on time.  

What are the major obstacles faced by the project to meet the targeted goal?

Since its inception in 2003, the project has encountered many challenges and tackled them successfully, be it the local obstruction demanding compensation or the contractors’ pressure on the government for timely allocation of money. The main hurdle for the project was caused by the vested interests from all people and groups, including the local communities, INGOs, NGOs and politicians. There was a time when eight groups were pressing different demands and padlocking the project’s office in the past. However, the project has been trying to sort out the problems that have led the project suffer at a larger extent. Now, there are no external problems at the surface, except a few individual concerns. Similarly, the finance is not a problem for the project implementation.  The main challenge, however, is poor geological condition of the area through which the tunnel is being constructed. There are weak rock conditions which are affecting the daily construction works in some portions along the 26.5 kilometre long tunnel. Sometimes the contractor has to stop work for 4-5 days due to this problem. We are not satisfied with the contractor’s management. They have not been able to achieve the target they had promised while signing the contract, but if we see the work cycle curve, even though it is very slow, there is a gradual increment.

How important is Melamchi Project in terms of water supply system for the Valley denizens?

With timely completion of the project by 2016, we will be able to provide an additional 170 MLD water. That means on an average, a household can get access to drinking water at least one hour daily, up from the existing two hours in 10 days in extreme condition. There will be a drastic change in the overall drinking water supply system within the Valley; however, there are challenges for effective water management, given the poor network distribution, technical problems including leakage and, most importantly, the loss incurred from the non-revenue water. If we cannot control the non-revenue water, we cannot provide efficient service. There will be improvement in the overall drinking water situation inside the Valley, but again the improvement very much depends on the efficient water management.

Published: 23-12-2014 09:26

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