KATHMANDU, March 4: With the work at the Melamchi Water Supply Project stalled since the past several weeks following the exit of the project’s Italian contractor, the security guards and locals have started stealing valuable construction materials from the project site.
This came to light after a group of locals including some of the security guards a few days ago stole heavy metal wires from the Gyalthum adit tunnel of the project on February 19.
According to the Area Police Office (APO), Melamchi, five people including three security guards at the tunnel were found to have stolen a total of 365 meters of four different types of heavy cables.
They had stolen 100 meters of 95 x 4 copper core cable, 200 meters of 35 x 4 copper core cable, 25 meters of 1.5 inch circumference copper cable and 40 meters of 1.5 inch circumference copper cable of Robodrill machine. Among these cables, the 35x4 copper core cable costs about Rs 200,000 per meter while the 95x4 cable costs Rs 7,000 per meter, according to the websites of the Indian manufacturers.
The chief of the Melamchi APO, inspector Mahendra Darnal, said police have already recovered the stolen cables, which the thieves had sold to a local garbage recycler. “We have found involvement of five people in the theft after we interrogated the manager of the garbage recycling center,” he said.
Three security guards -- Purna Bahadur Raut, 46, of Bhaktapur, Dasharath Bhujel, 33, of Bhaktapur and Bir Jung Shahi, 19, of Mugu -- and two locals -- Sun Bahadur Tamang, 27, and Binod Kumar Sah, 38 -- were arrested for the thievery recently.
On February 19, two employees of the drinking water project, who were on regular inspection of the storeroom of the Gyalthum Adit Tunnel, found that those items were missing. They had subsequently filed a theft complaint at the local police post.
Earlier, the government scrapped the contract with the Italian firm CMC after it failed to accomplish the task on the extended deadline. On the day when the cable went missing from the storeroom, a dispute had surfaced between Minister for Water Supply Bina Magar and Secretary Gajendra Kumar Thakur over whether to award the project yet again to the same Italian contractor firm.
The government had seized the passports of the CMC’s eight staffers including project manager Christian Greco when they were flying home to Italy to celebrate Christmas in December. However, the government allowed them to fly a week later after they promised to return to work.