Kathmandu Valley residents anxiously waiting for water of Melamchi

Kathmandu – As the monsoon season has already begun and the water level in the rivers have increased. Heavy floods and landslides triggered by torrential rainfall have affected many families across the country. But the water crisis in the Kathmandu Valley is same. The underground water, however, has been giving some respite to the valley denizens. The crisis becomes more serious with the onset of dry season.

When the summer begins, Kaplana Thapa of Samakhusi has to walk here and there in search of water. The underground water dries during the summer. Where shall we go to get the water? People get water only once in a week and the concerned authority distributes the water at around 1 am. She heaves a sigh of relief when the rainy season comes.

Until the last year, she was upbeat that the Melamchi project will be completed this year and the project will distribute adequate drinking water to Kathmandu denizens, thus ending the perennial water woes.  Minister for Water Supply Bina Magar last year had said that the people of Kathmandu Valley will get water from Melamchi River from this October. But there is no sign that the Valley denizens will get the water anytime soon. “The problem of water will be resolved if the concerned authority distributes water from the Melamchi. But we are not sure when we will get the water. We don’t have to wake up in the wee hours to fill up our water pots, “she said.

Not only Kalpana, Sobha Sapkota of Lainchaur is also waiting for Melamchi water. She is more curious about the news related Melamchi water project. “I have heard that the Melamchi Water Supply Project did not complete on time due to contractor. Hopefully, the project will complete soon and the people will get the water from Melamchi,” she said.

Pasang Tamang of Naya Bazaar has similar problem. She said there will be water in the well till mid-January but the well will start drying from February. “We get drinking water once in a week. I spend my whole day selling vegetable. We spend all our earning for paying the house rent and tuition fees of our children. So, we can’t afford to buy the water,” she said. “Sometimes I pray to god wishing for solution to the water crisis. I am desperately waiting for the Malemchi water,” Tamang added.

These are just some exemplary cases. The problem of water is getting worse day by day in Kathmandu Valley. All the valley residents are waiting for Melamchi water. Obviously, life will be difficult without water. Despite the rapid increase in population, the concerned authority has not been able to distribute enough water in the Kathmandu Valley. The Melamchi Water Supply Project was started to address the problem of drinking water in the Valley.

The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation had said that 90 percent of the Melamchi Drinking Water Project has already been completed. The much-awaited Malemchi Water Supply Project was halted due to a dispute with the Italian contractor, Cooperativa Muratori e Cementisti di Ravenna (CMC). The Melamchi Water Supply Development Board has said that fast-track process should be adopted to supply the water of Melachi to the consumers. The board said they are hold discussions with the Ministry to resolve the issue.

Minister for Water Supply and Sanitation Bina Magar had said that the contractor will expedite the construction work. While floating her opinion on the Drinking Water and Sanitation Bill during the meeting of House of Representatives held on August 7, she had assured of taking ahead the project in an expeditious manner.

Minister Magar also clarified that the government has no hand in sending the Italian contractor back.

Drinking water problem will be eased after completion of Melamchi Water Supply Project

The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation has said that at least 170 million litre of water will be supplied to the Kathmandu Valley after the completion of Melamchi Water Supply Project. According to the Ministry, the daily demand for water in the Valley is around 450 million liters.

The authority, however, has been supplying just 123 million liters of water at present.  The supply is less than the half. It has been learnt that 170 liters of water will be added after the completion of first phase of Melamchi Project. The government is planning to distribute 340 liters of water after the completion of second phase. The residents of Kathmandu Valley will receive 510 million liters of water every day after the completion of both of the projects.

Challenges

Meanwhile, Melamchi Water Supply Project is one of the national pride projects of Nepal. Everyone is concerned about the Melamchi water project as it is the much-awaited mega project of the country. The general plan for a pipeline project was originally conceived in 1972 in coordination with World Bank to manage drinking water for the residents of Kathmandu Valley. Snow Mountain Engineering and Consultant had carried out feasibility study of project in 1992. Later, it was identified that Melamchi River could be diverted and Melamchi Water Supply Development Board was formed to implement the project in 1998. The boarder design report of the project was prepared in 1999-2000 and Sundarijal transmission line was proposed to generate electricity and to reserve the water. The project’s original outlay was 464 million US dollars.

The transmission line was removed from the project due to dispute among the donor agencies. The Melamchi Water Supply Project was started after the Asian Development Bank provided loan investment worth 120 million US dollars. The problem surfaced after NORAD, SIDA and World Bank decided not to provide investment loan for the project in 2005.

The works such as acquiring land, construction of roads and camp sites, among others, were completed in 2008 and the construction of tunnel was started only after 2008. The Melamchi Water Supply Project was introduced through the ordinance after the Asian Development Bank decided to provide investment loan in 2005.

The loan investment agreement of Asian Development Bank expired in 2007. The project was divided into two parts in 2008 after there was no possibility to sign an agreement again with the Asian Development Bank and the project’s total cost was reduced to 317 US dollar.

The tender procurement process for the construction of tunnel was started in 2008 and the tender was awarded to the Chinese construction company in 2009. The company started carrying out its works from April, 2009 and reached an agreement to complete the project by September, 2013.

The government had selected Cooperativa Muratori e Cementisti di Ravenna (CMC) for Melamchi water project in 2013 after terminating the previous contract with the Chinese company following their tardy work. The CMC had signed an agreement with the government to complete the remaining works by September, 2016. The construction company had received the contract for Rs7.72 billion excluding VAT.

Meanwhile, the Ministry has said that around Rs 26.35 billion has been spent so far for the Melamchi Water Supply Project. It has been assumed that around Rs 3 billion will be needed to complete the remaining works.

Progress of Melamchi Water Supply Project

According to the Ministry, a total of 25,920-meter tunnel has been dug up so far and the work to prepare preliminary report was completed on April 10, 2019. The tasks of digging 100,000 cubic meter open cut for headworks construction and slop stabilization have been completed. Concretization of 25035 meter tunnel floor has been completed, while the remaining 885 meters of the tunnel floor remains to be concretized.

The project’s 25510-meter final support has already been completed and the construction of remaining 410 meter remains to be completed. The import of hydro-mechanical equipment and different kinds of gates have been imported. Some of the gates have already been installed. The installation of diversion pipes of 1600 millimeter diameter have been completed in 60 meters for headworks.

260 meter DI Pipes of 1000 millimeter diameter have been installed from Sundarijal tunnel outlet to Bagmati river. Among the three ventilation shafts of the project, 107 meter pilot drill have been completed at Aambathan. The installation, testing and operation of tunnel monitoring system has been estimated and designed.

The Melamchi Water project has conducted test operation of its water treatment plant center-1 (with a daily capacity of 8.5 crore liters of water).

Negligence of contractor

The Melamchi Water Supply project could not complete on time due to the negligence of contractor.

Consultant Engineers (Eptisa) on December 18, 2018 had recommended the Melamchi Water Supply Development Board to terminate the contract of construction company, saying that the latter left the construction site without informing the concerned authority.

The Melamchi Water Supply Development Board on December 18, 2018 had recommended the government to terminate the contract of the construction company. Later, the company on December 21, 2018 sent a letter informing that it took back the letter about scrapping the contract on December 17, 2018. The company on December 21, 2018 filed a writ at the Patan High Court against the confiscation of the deposit amount. Later, the court scrapped the writ filed by the construction company. The consultant Engineers (Eptisa) on December 3, 2018 had decided not to pay heed to the letter sent by the construction company.

The company on December 28, 2018 had decided to not return to work. Later, Minister Bina Magar urged Ministry of Water Supply and Sanitation and Melamchi Water Supply Development Board to resolve the problem through talks and urged the construction company to return to work. But the construction showed reluctance to resume the work. Later, the Melamchi Water Supply Development Board was compelled to terminate the contract.

Yanki and Larki in second phase

The work to prepare detailed project report of Yanki Larke Diversion under the Melamchi Water Supply Project is at the final stage. The Eptisa company of Spain had been entrusted for the task. It has been assumed that it will take around 22 Rs billion to complete the works of second phase. According to the Ministry, the construction company has already been deployed to construct the way to Yanki. The Project claimed that procurement process will start within 2019 if the government signs a loan agreement with the Asian Development.

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