Tunnel excavation work still moving at a snail’s pace

Kathmandu, October 27

Though the contractor for Melamchi Water Supply Project — CMC Cooperativa Muratori e Cementisti di Ravenna — had assured last month that it would achieve waterway tunnel breakthrough by December, it is likely to miss the deadline.

According to Melamchi Water Supply Development Board, excavation work was halted for 18 days due to festivals. Besides, the contractor has yet to expedite excavation work although only 65 days remain for it to complete the task.

Deputy Executive Director at MWSDB Ramakanta Duwadi said, “It is understandable that work had to be halted during festivals, but it is in no way justifiable for the contractor to halt work because of slight delay in payment. The contractor should work consistently to accomplish the task within the given deadline.”

According to MWSDB, the current speed of tunnel excavation stands at 16 metres per day while at least 22 meters should be excavated daily to complete the remaining 1,460-metre stretch of the tunnel by December.  “The pace of tunnel excavation has decelerated due to weak rock formation. So the contractor needs to speed up excavation work,” DED Duwadi added. At the current pace of 16 metres per day, it would take another 91 days for the contractor to complete the task .

The contracting company had submitted a written commitment to the MWSDB in September, saying it would complete excavation work along Ambathan-Gyalthum stretch by November and Gyalthum-Sindhu stretch by the end of December.

The previous deadline for tunnel excavation expired in July.

According to the MWSDB, only 620 metres remain to be excavated along the Ambathan-Gyalthum stretch and 840 metres along the Gyalthum-Sindhu stretch.

The 27.5km tunnel comprises three stretches — Sundarijal-Sindhu, Sindhu-Gyalthum and Gyalthum-Ambathan, covering 9.5 km, 8 km and 9 km respectively. Out of three adit tunnels, the longest stretch Sundarijal-Sindhu, which covers 9.5 km, was completed on December 28 last year.

The contractor has said that it would take at least three months for it to start supplying water to Kathmandu Valley after tunnel breakthrough. The contractor has promised to start supplying Melamchi water to Kathmandu Valley by March 26.

The Melamchi project’s first deadline expired in 2007 and second deadline in 2016. On April 3 this year, the deadline was extended to October 2017.