Tunnel work likely to be completed by June 2017

  • melamchi drinking water project
- BIBEK SUBEDI, Kathmandu
In the month of August alone, the contactor digs more than a kilometre of the tunnel

Sep 11, 2016-Melamchi Drinking Water Project, one of the most-awaited infrastructure projects in Nepal, has some good news to share, as the tunnel construction work is likely to be completed by June 2017.

In the month of August alone, the contactor dug more than a kilometre of the tunnel, raising hopes the parched Kathmandu Valley would get water from the Asian Development Bank (ADB)-funded project within a year. The project’s performance in August was the best since the initiation of the construction work in 2001.  

Although the government had claimed the first phase of the project would be completed within April 2016 and the Valley would get 170 million litres of water per day from the Melamchi River in Sindhupalchok, it could not deliver on its promise due to last year’s devastating earthquakes and trade embargo imposed by India.

Things, however, have changed of late.

According to project officials, construction of around 20km of the 27.5km diversion tunnel of the project has been completed. 

“If the construction moves ahead at this pace, the remaining 7.5km of the tunnel could be built by June 2017,” said Ghanshyam Bhattarai, project chief. “Once the construction of the tunnel is over, it will take an additional three to four months for the project to supply water to Kathmandu. So, if everything goes as planned, we will be able to supply Melamchi’s water to Kathmandu’s citizens by next year’s Dashain.”

The ADB has also expressed satisfaction over the progress. “We are fully satisfied with the pace at which the contractor is working,” said ADB Country Director Kenichi Yokoyama.

The fate of the project, however, depends on swift resolution of a problem that has emerged at a section of the tunnel due to “weak rock condition”. According to a project official, rock condition at a 1,500m section is very weak, which is “making digging difficult”.

“The section is formed of calcareous soil and it is difficult to build a tunnel there because the soil condition is weak,” said Bhattarai. “In that section, we can only dig 4-5m of tunnel a day. We have to be very careful while digging that section. Nevertheless, we need to find a solution soon to complete the project in time.”

Yokoyama also said one needs to be very careful while building long tunnels like Melamchi’s. “The construction at times can be risky and it should be built carefully,” he said.

Published: 11-09-2016 10:21

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