Kathmandu, December 18
The government has said it will not allow the Italian contractors of the Melamchi Drinking Water Project to leave the country unless they furnish a concrete plan to complete the crucial project that is expected to deliver 170 million litres of water per day to Kathmandu valley.
The government held marathon meetings with the Italian contractors from 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm on Monday and from 12:00 pm to 9:00 pm today. However, the meetings have not been able to produce tangible results.
The meetings were attended by officials of the Ministry of Water Supply and Melamchi Drinking Water Development Committee and representatives of the Italian contractor — Cooperativa Muratori e Cementisti di Ravenna’s (CMC). Also present were representatives of consultant company Eptisa, Asian Development Bank, which has provided the loan to build the project, and legal and other experts.
The government has been holding these meetings after CMC submitted a formal letter expressing its intention to abandon the drinking water project. The Italian contractor decided to walk away from the project due to its worrisome financial condition. Project work has been halted since Sunday.
“The government is exploring options to complete the project without affecting any planned schedule,” Gajendra Kumar Thakur, secretary at the Ministry of Water Supply, told THT. He said the government was holding talks on whether CMC could be asked to complete the project through other options, with payment of Rs 360 million under additional liabilities as sought by the Italian firm being one option. “The contractor had sought Rs 360 million in September and threatened to halt work if the government did not pay the amount.” “We’ll soon decide whether to allow CMC to continue with the work or fast-track the process of appointing a new contractor,” said Thakur.
The MoWS has also given a one-week deadline to Eptisa to submit the exact situation and technical assessment of the tunnel. Thakur added that the government was closely monitoring CMC staffers, including Project Manager Cristiano Greco. The MoWS is coordinating with Nepal Police to monitor CMC staff and prevent them from leaving the country.
As per the project, the work of building head works, audit tunnel gate, sensor camera and concrete lining along nearly 700 metres of the Melamchi tunnel remains to be completed.
A version of this article appears in print on December 19, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.