Kathmandu, February 25
The Melamchi Water Supply Development Board is struggling to meet its third deadline, which is expiring on October 2017. However, considering the current pace of tunnel excavation, installation of distribution network, and other construction work, it is unlikely that MWSDB will complete work by the deadline.
According to MWSDB, geographical problems such as appearance of weak rocks in excavation sites have reduced the pace of excavation by 50 per cent and sometimes even more. The tunnel excavation rate in normal conditions for the project is 25 metres per day, with a normal optimum target of one kilometres per month.
But MWSDB progress report has shown that only 353.5 metres of tunnel was constructed in the month of February this year. Deputy Executive Director at the board Ramakanta Duwadi said the excavation must be completed by July 15 this year for them to meet the target to supply water from October 2017.
However, 4.5 kilometres of the tunnel is yet to be excavated, which is next to impossible to accomplish by mid-July.
“The MWSDB is certain that if work continues at the current pace, the deadline will be missed. We are preparing to accelerate the speed of tunnel excavation by increasing our investments and spending as much budget as the contractor has demanded,” he told The Himalayan Times.
“The contractor has said it will need more financial resources to meet the target, but the additional costs are yet to be disclosed,” he added, “This is a last resort attempt to make sure that we don’t miss the target.”
Duwadi said out of the budget of Rs 7.72 billion allocated for the excavation process, Rs 3.35 billion has already been paid to the contractor, and the contractor’s additional demand will be deducted from the budget that remains.
The Melamchi Project’s first deadline was on 2007, and the second deadline was on 2016. On April 3 that year, the deadline was extended to October 2017. Out of 27,584.5 metres of tunnel that needs to be excavated, 22,853.1 metres had been constructed by February 22 this year, and 4,731.4 metres remain to be constructed.
Though the Melamchi project was envisioned in the late 1990s, the first agreement to construct the project was signed in 2003, with funds from various donors and developmental partners. The project took off only in 2010, seven years after the agreement was signed.
Construction work had been halted until the government gave the contract to the Italian firm CMC Cooperativa Muratori e Cementisti di Ravenna in July, 2013. The Melamchi Water Supply Development Board had awarded the contract to CMC with a deadline to complete the project by February 19, 2016. However, the 2015 earthquakes had stopped all works for around 10 months.
Started in December 21, 2000, the Melamchi Water Supply Project is assisted by the Asian Development Bank.
The Melamchi Project plans to supply 510 million litres of water per day to Kathmandu Valley from Melamchi, Yangri, and Larke Rivers of Sindhupalchowk district. In phase one of the project, 170 million litres of water per day will be supplied to the Valley, once the 27.5 km-long diversion tunnel from Melamchi to Sundarijal is completed.
A version of this article appears in print on February 26, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.