The recent flood in the Melamchi River has dashed the hopes of Kathmandu valley denizens to get water supply from Melamchi Drinking Water Project. After preliminary observation of the damage done to the project, government authorities have said that only reconstructing the head works may not be enough to resume the supply of water from the project.

Floods on June 14 and 15 had severely damaged the head works of the project.

Making things worse, more debris has accumulated around the same area as the river now flows at least 10 metres above the normal river basin which has made it difficult to directly send water into the tunnel.

Pramila Devi Bajracharya, secretary at the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, during discussion held at the Development and Technology Committee of the House of Representatives said that recent flooding had thrown the future of the Melamchi project into uncertainty.

Boulders, pebbles, mud and sand had accumulated around the 200-metre square area of the head works due to earlier flooding, covering the head works infrastructure under at least 10-meter thick slit. With roads and multiple bridges, which were also washed away by the flood, authorities are not sure when or how they can clear the debris.

"Only after clearing the stones and sands can they estimate about damage to the project and find measures to rebuild the damaged infrastructure.

But, that might not be a long term solution because mud might easily get into the tunnel as the geographical conditions a few kilometres uphill from the head works have become more unpredictable,"

Bajracharya said.

She further said the ministry had written to the Asian Development Bank, a major funding organisation of the project, to make detailed research about the unpredictable geographical conditions in the area.

A huge landslide around seven kilometre uphill from the head works at Bhimthang had caused the June 14 and 15 flooding. A huge chunk of land is still collapsing making the crystal clear water in the Melamchi River muddy.

"Even if we manage to clear the debris at the head works, we cannot send the water directly into the tunnel as there is the risk of mud and pebble entering the tunnel causing damage to the tunnel," she added.

After a 23-year long wait, the Melamchi project was inaugurated on March 28. People were also glad to see water from the Melamchi running from their taps, but their happiness did not last long. The government has estimated that the flood has caused a loss of Rs two billion to the project alone. The board has also requested the Department of Roads and Nepali Army to repair the road and install temporary bridges to resume transportation.

A version of this article appears in the print on August 3 2021, of The Himalayan Times.