End the indecision on Melamchi project

Published On: March 12, 2019 02:00 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

As dry season approaches, water scarcity becomes one of the major concerns of millions of people living in the capital city Kathmandu every year. And, this year, the government is certainly going to disappoint the Kathmanduites once again for the much-awaited water of Melmachi is not going to come to their household taps. As things stand Melamchi project remains in limbo since the Italian contractor stopped working nearly three months ago citing payment issue and the government took action against some officials of the Italian company. Minister for Water Supply Bina Magar has been insisting to allow the same contractor to complete the remaining work. However, officials at Ministry of Water Supply and Melamchi Project aren’t ready to do that saying that legal provisions don’t allow them to do so as the contract has already been terminated. The then Secretary of the Ministry of Water Supply Gajendra Thakur, who was transferred by the minister from the ministry last month, had publicly accused Minister Magar of transferring him for not working as per her undue pressure to do some “illegal works”. As per the latest report, the Water Supply Development Board, the implementing agency of Melamchi Water Supply Project, has failed to convene its board meeting for over one-and-half months. The minister and top officials have failed to settle the issue and resume works at the project site. They should have convened series of marathon meetings until they find an amicable solution. They don’t seem to be making any sincere efforts in the last three months. And Melamchi dream is getting deferred, to the great chagrin of valley residents.

Supplying Melamchi water to Kathmandu Valley has remained a major election agenda since the reinstatement of democracy in 1990. Though it’s a decades-old dream for Kathmandu denizens to get abundant of water from the neighboring district, work at the project site in Sindhupalchowk gathered momentum mainly after 2007. After that, government announced to complete it by 2015. But it couldn’t be done as planned. Last year, top government officials promised to supply Melamchi water to Kathmandu “within two months”. Since then, such deadlines have again been extended repeatedly. According to project officials, the remaining works can be completed in a period of three months if carried out effectively. However, the minister and the secretary have held the project in hostage of indecision. 

This is what is deeply worrying for people in Kathmandu. Keeping the national pride project in such a prolonged indecision will not only cost the state coffers dearly but also lead to disappointment and erosion of public trust in the government. Melamchi project should not suffer just because a contractor is not willing to cooperate or minister and officials are at loggerheads. If necessary, Prime Minister KP Oli himself should intervene to end the deadlock. It has already become a case study of how a national pride project can be mired into mismanagement. It’s once again necessary to end the state of indecision and resume works at the project site without any further delay. How long should people wait before they finally get water in their taps? 

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