Delay-plagued Melamchi project hits another snag

- Anup Ojha, Kathmandu
The timetable has been extended by another one and half years due to the April earthquake, prolonged unofficial trade embargo, shortage of fuel and political instability

Dec 22, 2015-The delay-plagued project to bring drinking water from Melamchi to parched Kathmandu has hit another snag. Officials said that the scheme’s timetable had been extended by another one and a half years due to the devastating Gorkha earthquake, prolonged unofficial trade embargo, shortage of fuel and political instability.   

The government had claimed that the first phase of the Melamchi project would be completed by April 13, 2016, and that the valley would then get 170 million litres of water per day (MLD) from the Melamchi River in Sindhupalchok.  

Government officials said that the construction work had totally halted for more than six months -- three months due to the April 25 earthquake and three months due to the shortage of gasoline and construction materials as a result of the blockade by India.

Only 13 km of the 27.5-km-long diversion tunnel of the Melamchi Drinking Water Project has been completed. Ghanashyam Bhattarai, deputy executive director of the project, said that the tunnel must progress at the rate of 1 km monthly in order to complete the project on schedule.

The Italian contractor CMC Cooperativa Muratori e Cementisti di Ravenna had completed 6.5 km of the diversion tunnel from March 2014 to April 25. “The work was going on smoothly, but then natural and political upheavals came in the way,” said Bhattarai.

The project ground to a halt after the government terminated the contract with the Chinese contractor in September 2012. The board then decided to award the contract to CMC for Rs7.72 billion. The government had allocated Rs5.24 billion for the project two years ago.

In July 2013, the government signed an agreement with an Austrian-Indian joint venture company to construct a waste water treatment plant with a total capacity of 8,590 million litres. The construction of the Rs4.20-billion plant started last year. Financing was arranged with concessional loans from the Japan International Cooperation Agency. It was scheduled to be completed by November 2015.

The ambitious Melamchi water project was envisioned in the late 1990s, and the first agreement for its construction was signed in 2003 with funding from various donors and development partners. The project was originally scheduled to be finished by 2007.

Published: 22-12-2015 09:06

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