KATHMANDU, July 14: Though it has already been two weeks since a canal of Sikta Irrigation Project crumbled, the government neither knows the reason behind the collapse, nor is clear about its future move on the issue.
The canal near Jhijhari River crumbled on June 29 while it was on a trial run. The contractor has been asked to repair the canal immediately.
Similarly, it has formed a panel under Sagar Kumar Rai, joint secretary of Ministry of Irrigation, to investigate the case. The team has returned from the field study, but is yet to prepare its report.
“We have just returned from the site,” Rai said, adding that the team's term has been extended by a week. He further added that the issue has been blown out of proportion. “It's a general testing process during which defects are addressed,” he added.
Experts also do not have common view on how the case should be handled. Talking to Republica, Dinkar Sharma, a former government engineer, emphasized the need to thoroughly investigate the case and address the shortcomings accordingly. He said the possible reasons behind canal collapse could be design defect or weakness on the part of contractor or implementing agency.
Kalika CTCE JV is the contractor of the project. Lawmaker Bikram Pandey is one of the promoters of the contractor.
Shiva Kumar Sharma, former director general of Department of Irrigation, who has the experience of overseeing such test runs, said that the Sikta canal collapse was exceptional. “This, however, is not a big issue. It can be handled easily by the project staff,” he added. Sharma is against launching serious investigation on the issue. He said the project could meet same fate of Chamelia Hydropower Project if serious investigations are launched. “Operation of canal for seven days proves that the structure is safe,” he said, adding that the defect was manageable.
Prakash Bahadur Karki, senior divisional engineer with Sikta Irrigation Project, pointed out the weakness of contractor. “The canal collapsed after seepage because of defects in joints due to substandard bitumen,” he said, adding that they have not received any direction from the Department of Irrigation or the Ministry of Irrigation.
Republica's sister publication Nagarik daily on Monday quoted project's chief Saroj Pandit as saying that they knowingly compromised on civil works to save money. Pandit's statement indicates flaw in the design. But no variation has been claimed by the contractor for change in design.
“We have not submitted any proposal for variation order," added Karki.
Kashinath Adhikari, a member of parliamentary Agriculture and Water Resources Committee, said that they have held informal discussion on the issue but are yet to come up with any official opinion. “We will come up with official opinion after committee's chair Gagan Thapa returns from the US,” added Adhikari.