House panel tells water ministry to draft bill

  • The ministry functions without statutory law even after three years
- SANJEEV GIRI, Kathmandu

Aug 29, 2018-

Sensing absence of law for proper functioning of the Ministry of Water Supply, the Development and Technology Committee of the Legislature Parliament on Tuesday directed the ministry to draft a bill and table it at Parliament at the possible earliest. The committee decision follows Minister for Water Supply Bina Magar’s admission at a meeting that the ministry had failed to deliver as per the public expectation in the absence of guiding Act.  

The Ministry of Water Supplies was formed by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli during his first term in office in 2015. Before this, the portfolio was under the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport and then under the Ministry of Urban Development. The tendency of expanding ministries to create space for ministerial hopefuls from coalition partners eventually led to the formation of the Ministry of Water Supply. But it is still without Act even three years after the inception.

“The House committee’s directive is in favour of the ministry having an Act for making its work efficient,” Banshi Raj Poudel, secretary of the committee told the Post.

Likewise, Joint Secretary at the ministry Shankar Prasad Subedi said it had failed to have an Act despite repetitive attempts. The task of consultation with legal experts is currently on for drafting a bill, according to him. “We have made repetitive attempts. As we are pushing the issue, the committee’s directive has come as a welcome move which hopefully gets the bill ratified from Parliament at the earliest,” Subedi added.

The committee has also directed the ministry to designate a standard for ensuring consumption of pure water. According to the committee decision, stakeholders have been asked to make an arrangement for issuing Nepal Standards certification mark. “Article 35 (4) of the constitution ensures right of access to clean drinking water and categorised it as fundamental rights. But tap water in Kathmandu Valley lacks quality,” the House committee decision reads.

Expressing concern over frequent delays at the Melamchi Drinking Water Project, the committee directed the ministry to resolve managerial issues to complete the project within the scheduled time. “Frequent changes in completion date of the project has raised serious questions and hit the credibility of the government,” it said.

The Melamchi project is set to miss the latest deadline of October 2018 as the progress on the tunnel work is running behind schedule, an official at the ministry said. Though a breakthrough was achieved in the 27.5km tunnel excavation in April this year, only 9.5km of the tunnel has been laid with concrete so far. The project is expected to divert 170 million litres of water from Melamchi in Sindhupalchok to Kathmandu Valley in the first phase.

The parliamentary committee has also stated that the task of conducting Initial Environmental Examination and Environmental Impact Assessment for generating additional water from the Yangri and Larke rivers has failed to take place. It has directed the ministry to accord top priority for expediting work. “The work for addressing the demand of water in Kathmandu has failed to gather expected pace,” the committee decision reads.

According to Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited, demand for water in the Capital exceeds 400 million litres per day. But owing to limited resources, the KUKL has been supplying 140 million litres a day during monsoon and less than 80 million litres a day during the dry season. The deepening water crisis has also resulted in a rise in reliance on private water sellers who charge exorbitant prices with no quality assurance.

The committee has also cautioned the ministry about the capacity of drainage system once water from Melamchi is integrated with the distribution mechanism of Kathmandu. “Discussion on whether the drainage system in Kathmandu can handle excrete water hasn’t been conducted properly,” the committee directive reads. The parliamentary committee has asked the ministry to furnish a comprehensive report on initiatives taken on the matter and current drainage capacity along with a long-term working plan within 15 days.

Published: 29-08-2018 07:29

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