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Decade on, Melamchi water still elusive



The Melamchi Drinking Water Development Project site in Sundarijal looked deserted with heavy equipments lying about unused and incomplete structures reflecting the uncertainty surrounding the project.

The project has been in limbo after the government terminated the contract of the Chinese construction company that was building the project seven months ago.

Tunnel diversion in Sundarijal (11)

Melamchi tunnel diversion in Sundarijal. Photo: NIRJANA SHARMA

Tunnel diversion in Sundarijal (8)

Tunnel inside view

Tunnel diversion in Sundarijal (25)

The Melamchi project was started in 2000 with an aim to supply 170 million liter of water per day to the Valley by 2007. The slow pace of the project, however, has resulted in the extension of deadlines twice, first till 2013 and now till 2016. The total cost of the project is US $ 249.4 million.

Workers laying pipes for the Melamchi water supply project.

According to Madhav Prasad Nepal, senior engineer with the Melamchi Water Supply Development Board, the government has initiated the process for next bidding with the hopes of restarting the project within a couple of years.

“We will award the contracts through bidding soon to accomplish the project by 2016,” said Nepal.

The initial contract with the Chinese contractor China Railway 15 Bureau Group Corporation on building a diversion tunnel for the water supply project came to an end on September 26 last year.

The contractors heaped all the blames on the government body saying that the board was unsupportive and had failed to address their demands over payment.

Of the total 27.5 km tunnel planned, only 6 km was built till September last year. Engineer Nepal, meanwhile, claimed that the Chinese contractors did not bring equipments needed for constructing the tunnel.

The Board officials say that the government was disappointed with the contractors after it became clear that they could not complete the work on time.

Senior divisional engineer Tek Raj Bhatta, who was on the Board that oversaw the Chinese contractor’s work, said that the company was not using drill and blast technology used for building big diversion tunnels.

“The contractor worked manually which could not maintain the required pressure on the rock,” said Bhatta.

Meanwhile, the construction of a water treatment plant has also been delayed due to the slowdown in the construction of diversion tunnel.
The Board has set aside 240 ropanis of land nearby the tunnel to treat the water before supplying it to the KUKL reservoir, said Nepal.

Project Implementation Directorate (PID), which is under Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited (KUKL), nonetheless has been working to develop the bulk water transmission and distribution network after the arrival of Melamchi water.

The PID is laying pipes for the 10 km Bulk Distribution System from Melamchi to the KUKL reservoir in Mahankal. The PID has laid 1400 mm diameter pipes in 800 meter distance since December last year and aims to complete the project by 2016.

Donor Agency Amount (M. US $) Percent
Government of Nepal 73.90 29.60
Asian Development Bank 103.80 41.65
N.D.F 10.50 4.21
JICA 47.50 19.04
OPEC 13.70 5.50
Total 249.40 100

Government’s 3-year water supply plan for the Valley
There is a demand of 320 million liters of drinking water in the Valley for 3.2 million people, out of which 2.6 million are Valley residents and more than half a million people are those who travel to the Valley for various reasons.

The KUKL has the capacity to supply only 90 million liters of water to the Kathmanduties in dry season and 150 million liters of water during rainy season. Therefore, the KUKL is also working on other alternatives as Melamchi project would supply only 170 million liters of water every day, which is only half of the total requirement.

While the Melamchi project remains in limbo, the government has estimated that additional Rs 9 billion would be needed to supply drinking water to the Valley dwellers till 2016. The estimation excludes the cost of the ongoing Melamchi drinking water project and the Bagmati Basin improvement program.

The Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) has estimated that 20 new tube wells, with the capacity to generate 20 million liters water per day, would have to be brought in operation in the next three years.

Similarly, there is a plan to construct a 22 kilometer network for improved water distribution system inside the ring road areas. The MoUD project also aims to construct basins at various places of the Valley. Under this plan, ponds with the capacity to store 30 million liters of water in Mahankal, 12 million liters in Balaju, 8 million liters each in Arubari and Khumaltar would be built. In total, 68 million liters of water would be stored in the basins.
The ministry estimates the population of Kathmandu Valley to reach near 5.1 million by 2025. “We are planning with that figure in mind,” says the MoUD Secretary Kishor Thapa.

In another phase, from 2016 to 2025, the government aims to establish water treatment centers and improved distribution systems at an investment of Rs 13 billion.

According to Chandra Lal Nakarmi, Senior Distribution Manager at the KUKL, the leakage of drinking water has been reduced to 35 percent from 75 percent compared to the scenario two years ago. “It has allowed us to save around 2 million liters of water in the Valley,” he said, adding, “The KUKL aims to drop the leakage to 15 percent in the next two years.”

The private sector has also played a vital role to ease water crisis in the Valley which is at present supplying 60 million liters of water every day. As much as 28 private companies, 28 hotels, 600 tankers of 56 private tanker companies and 11 hospitals are supplying ground water for commercial and institutional use. Similarly, bottling companies and housing companies have constructed 151 deep tube wells to extract ground water.

According to the MoUD, 80 water supply projects have currently benefited 2,28,000 people of 82 VDCs in the Valley. Among them, 52 VDCs fall in Kathmandu, 14 in Lalitpur and 16 in Bhaktapur districts.

Source: Republica DailyLink:
Published on 2013-04-14 14:40:01

About nirjanasharma

Nepali Journalist.

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