KATHMANDU, Feb 14: The government on Thursday set yet another deadline of mid-July 2020 to bring Melamchi waters to Kathmandu Valley.
The Melamchi Water Supply Project (MWSP), which was conceived some three decades ago as a solution to severe short supply of drinking water in Kathmandu Valley, still remains incomplete.
Minister for Water Supply and Sanitation, Bina Magar, announced the new deadline at a program organized in Kathmandu on Thursday to issue a whitepaper report on the project. As per the report, 95.12% of physical construction of the project has been completed. The project has spent Rs 2.81 billion out of the earmarked costs of Rs 3.13 billion.
The government has awarded a contract worth Rs 850.2 million to Chinese firm Sinohydro to complete remaining works of the project i.e. rectification of existing tunnels and construction of additional tunnels.
After missing several deadlines over the years, the government in its federal budget for FY2018/19 had claimed that the first phase of project would be completed within the current fiscal year. Earlier too, when the government had terminated the contract with the Italian company last year, the government had claimed that only 10 percent work was remaining to divert Melamchi waters to Kathmandu. Setting a fresh deadline, the government has now expressed commitment to divert water to Sundarijal of Kathmandu for distribution by this fiscal year-end. Similarly, it has also said that construction of processing plant at Sundarijal too will be completed within FY2019/20.
According to the whitepaper report, the remaining works of the project will be completed in two phases. In the first phase, which will conclude in the current fiscal year, the government has forecast that it would complete construction of cofferdam and bring into operation the alternative diversion and fix 14 water release gates. Likewise, the finalization of main tunnel and rectification work, installation of vent shafts, fixation of instrumentation that help in monitoring of the audit tunnel and panel board will also be completed in the first phase.
In the second phase, the project will build a dam alongside the cofferdam, intake and a bridge, as well as intake weir and serpentine sediment sluice system within FY2020/21.
The project has already built a processing plant having capacity of 850 million liters while another processing plant of the same capacity is undergoing different test after completion of construction work.
According to the project office, 35% of head works has been completed so far. Similarly, 40% of cofferdam, which is targeted to be completed by mid-March, has been built.
Last January, the government scrapped the contract with Italian contractor Cooperativa Muratori e Cementisti di Ravenna (CMC) after the latter abandoned the project. According to the progress report, the government has paid Rs 29.6 million in wages to workers hired by CMC. “A six member committee led by joint-secretary of the Ministry of Water Supply and Sewage has started study to settle remaining dues of CMC,” the report states.
Despite putting forth with its claim to deliver water to Kathmandu in the aforementioned deadline, the government, however, fears delay in settlement of dues of suppliers of the construction materials could affect the project. “Apart from the payment issues, the locals from project affected areas are still likely to put forward their demands that are likely to disrupt the construction work,” reads the project report.
Poor road infrastructure, issues related to benefit-sharing among the local people and excess use of construction materials due to possible landslides because of over excavation done in the past are some of the threats that could challenge the project’s deadline, according to the government report.