SINDHUPALCHOWK, Sep 6: Although the government decided to award the contract to complete the remaining works of Melamchi Drinking Water Project to a Chinese firm after several months of indecision, the completion of the much-awaited project is likely to be delayed further as fresh protests have erupted at the construction site. Chinese firm Sino Hydro Company was awarded the contract after the Italian company abandoned the project halfway in November last year.
At least five persons were injured in a scuffle that ensued between police personnel and local contractors, who staged protests demanding that the government settle the amount that the Italian contractor owed to them.
Agitating laborers and suppliers had reached the main construction site of the drinking water project, demanding payment from the expelled contractor for their works and goods.
According to Police Inspector Maniram Lamichhane, they were forced to use some force including firing tear gas shells to contain the protest after the protesters started pelting stones at Ambasthan Police Post. The protesters claimed police used a dozen cells of tear gas and some rubber bullets against them. “Our two friends have been injured by the rubber bullets from the police. The police used force against our peaceful protest,” said Uttam Kumar Shrestha, a leader among the protesters. Injured labors Santosh Chaudhary and Balmukunda Adhikari have been taken to Kathmandu for further treatment.
DSP Madhav Kafle from the district police office, however, claimed that rubber bullets were not used against the protest. Police have claimed that three police personnel were injured by the stones pelted by the protesters.
Vendors and labors have been intensifying protests demanding payments from the former contractor, which was returned without accomplishing the project. They had picketed the site office of the project on Wednesday.
Over 50 machines of the vendors have been abandoned near the source point of the project which was hired by the CMC on rent. “We are unaware about our machines and equipment hired by the CMC, another contractor cannot use those equipment without our consent” said Bishwamani Acharya, coordinator of the Melamchi Drinking Water Project victims struggle committee.
Around 1,000 laborers and dozens of suppliers have claimed Rs 1.65 billion from the CMC which fled the country earlier this year. Coordinator Acharya said that the government should ensure their payments from the bank guarantee deposited by the former contractor. With the government awarding the contract to a Chinese company for the remaining task of the project, labors and suppliers have announced step-wise protests demanding that they be paid their dues. They have also threatened to obstruct the project works if their payment is not settled soon.