Melamchi water project an open-ended mission

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Oct 13, 2017-

With a succession of deadlines to supply Melamchi water to parched Kathmandu Valley having passed without fruition, the Melamchi Water Supply Development Board told the parliamentary Development Committee on Thursday that they had stopped fixing target dates.

Ram Chandra Devkota, executive director of the board, informed lawmakers that the project contract would end on March 26 next year. “We don’t have a specific date to start supplying water, but it will happen before the end of the contract period,” he said. 

Devkota added that they had created a plan to expedite the project so that tasks would follow a timetable. The latest deadline to send water from the Melamchi River gushing into homes in Kathmandu was September.

“We were unable to meet the target due to difficulties in excavating the tunnel,” he said. Devkota told the House committee that they still have to dig 1.5 km of tunnel out of a total length of 27.5 km.  

The project tunnel comprises three stretches—Sundarijal-Sindhu, Sindhu-Gyalthum and Gyalthum-Ambathan. The Sundarijal-Sindhu stretch, which is 9.5 km long, was completed on December 26 last year.

“We have been digging the tunnel from two points. As per the target, we have planned to complete the Gyalthum-Ambathan section by November and the Sindhu-Gyalthum section by December,” he said. “Even after the breakthrough is made, a number of tasks need to be completed inside the tunnel before Melamchi water can be sent through the tunnel to the Sundarijal reservoir.”

In the first phase, 170 million litres of water is expected to flow every day from the Melamchi river in Sindhupalchok to the Valley. 

Meanwhile, the board said that a detailed engineering and design of the second phase of the project would be completed by January next year. The four-year project envisages extending a 12-km tunnel to the Yangri and Larke rivers, which lie in the upstream region of the Melamchi River.

The second phase of the project will begin in 2019, and it will supply three times more water than the first phase. The board said that the Valley would receive 510 million litres of water daily after the construction of the second phase is completed.

The Melamchi project was envisioned in the late 1990s. The first agreement for its construction was signed in 2003 with funding from several donors and developmental partners. The project was originally slated to be completed by 2007. The project’s second deadline expired in 2016, and the deadline was extended to October 2017. 

Valley residents have pinned their hopes on Melamchi for salvation from perpetual water shortages. The average daily requirement of water in the Valley is about 400 million litres. 

However, Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited (KUKL) supplies only around 140 million litres daily during the rainy season; and in the winter, this drops to 80 million litres. 

Moreover, 36 percent of the water is lost due to leakage. The water shortage has spawned a thriving private water tanker business. 

Published: 13-10-2017 08:04

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