Nepal | December 13, 2019

Melamchi tunnel digging delayed

Sabin Mishra

File – People working at the key section of Melamchi Tunnel – 9.5 km from Sundarijal Sindhu section – which was completed on Wednesday, December 28, 2016. Photo: RSS

Kathmandu, July 2

The much-awaited Melamchi Drinking Water Project will not be completed within the deadline set by the government due to slow progress in tunnel digging. The government and Italian contractor Cooperativa Muratorie Cementisti di Ravenna (CMC) had earlier set a deadline of September 30, 2017 to complete Melamchi project.

As per government officials, the construction of the tunnel is being delayed due to fragile rock found in the Sindhu-Gyalthum sector in Sindhupalchowk. “Weak rock formation at Sindhu-Gyalthum sector will affect the tunnel digging process thus delaying the project,” said Secretary at the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Bhim Prasad Upadhyay.

According to Upadhyay, the aforementioned sector has fragile rocks accompanied by frequent mud slides. “Even if there were mud slides it would not have affected the tunnel digging process if the rocks in the area were harder,” he added. Other physical works, however, are going on smoothly.

A length of 2,700 metres of the tunnel under this project in that sector is yet to be dug. Meanwhile, the contractor is being able to dig only 19 metres on average a day. If the process to dig the tunnel is not hastened it will take over four more months to complete it. Although there has been a delay in tunnel digging, Secretary Upadhyay is convinced that the project will be completed in stipulated time. “I’m convinced project will be completed before this Dashain,” he said. “It is normal for a few practical difficulties to crop up while building such a huge project.”

Out of the total length of 27.58 kilometres, 25.1 kilometres of the tunnel is ready till date. CMC is digging the tunnel from four sites in Sindhu-Gyalthum and Gyalthum-Ambathan sectors. CMC has mobilised four teams in the Sindhu and Gyalthum upstream areas, and the Gyalthum and Ambathan downstream areas for tunnel digging. Tunnel construction on Gyalthum-Amabathan site is going on smoothly as per Upadhyay.

The government plans to supply 170 million litres of water daily to Kathmandu Valley from Melamchi river in the first phase. After completion of the first phase, the Yangri and Larke rivers will also be diverted to Melamchi to bring additional 340 million litres of water a day.

The initial deadline to complete the project was September, 2016 but due to the earthquake of April 25, 2015 and fuel shortage, the deadline was extended to March, 2018. After negotiations with the government, CMC had revised the target to September, 2017.

A version of this article appears in print on July 03, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.

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