Weak rocks reappear, hit Melamchi’s tunnel work

Kathmandu, December 1

As only 900 metres remain to be dug for the completion of Melamchi project’s tunnel, weak rocks have surfaced at Gyalthum, decelerating tunnel work.

According to Melamchi Water Supply Development Board, weak rocks have been posing difficulty digging the remaining stretch of the tunnel.

Deputy Executive Director at MWSDB Ramakanta Duwadi said weak rocks were delaying tunnel excavation for the last few days. “Although we should have been digging at least three to four metres, we have been able to dig only 1.5 metres on an average,” Duwadi told The Himalayan Times, adding “We had encountered the problem at Sindhu also, but the problem has reappeared at Gyalthum. We are worried that more than 600 metres of the remaining tunnel may also have weak rocks.”

He said if the entire Sindhu-Gyalthum stretch had weak rocks, tunnel excavation would be all the more difficult.  Melamchi Water Supply Project had missed its third deadline due to difficulty completing the tunnel work.

According to the progress report of tunnel construction till yesterday, 26.7 km of the 27.5 km tunnel has already been excavated. Now only 883 metre tunnel remains to be excavated. While 273 metre tunnel remains to be excavated along the Ambathan-Gyalthum stretch, 610 metre remains to be dug along the Gyalthum-Sindhu stretch.

Two months ago, the project contractor had promised to begin water supply by March 26. The contractor had also promised to complete the Ambathan-Gyalthum stretch by November and the Sindhu-Gyalthum stretch by December.

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

Due to weak rock formation, tunnel construction pace has been decelerating since long. The project’s first deadline expired in 2007 and second deadline expired in 2016. On April 3 this year, the deadline was extended to October 2017.

Started on 21 December 2000, the Melamchi Water Supply Project is assisted by the Asian Development Bank and aims to reduce drinking water scarcity in the Valley. The Melamchi project envisages supplying 510,000,000 litres (170,000,000 MLD in first phase and remaining 340,000,000 MLD in second phase) of water per day to the Valley from the Melamchi, Yangri, and Larke rivers of Sindhupalchowk district.

Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited is the only organisation which supplies water to 2,700,000 people in the Valley.