Pipe dreamsNepal is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of fresh water resources. Due to our gradient topography, Nepal’s water resource also has great hydropower generating potential. Yet the Capital’s denizens do not have access to enough water and, until recently, load shedding was the norm.
Nepal is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of fresh water resources. Due to our gradient topography, Nepal’s water resource also has great hydropower generating potential. Yet the Capital’s denizens do not have access to enough water and, until recently, load shedding was the norm.
Though the Valley’s daily water requirement exceeds 400 million litres, the Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited (KUKL) has been able to supply only about 140 million litres to the Capital’s residents during monsoon. During the winter months, the parched Valley receives less than 80 million litres a day. News of the Melamchi Water Supply Project hitting a breakthrough with the tunnel digging process being completed should be welcome then, particularly since this is the most troublesome part of the entire project. With this recent progress, the project looks to be completed in the next three months. The project, envisioned in the 1990s and at first planned to be completed by 2007, has faced contractor changes and numerous delays in its history.
Sadly, the total supply capacity of the first phase of the Melamchi project—even ignoring any leakage rate that is bound to factor in—is only 170 million litres of water a day. Combined with current supply lines, that still falls woefully short of the Valley’s water demand. Drawn up to supply Kathmandu Valley decades ago, the plan obviously didn’t account for the Capital’s population and demand growth.
That the delayed water project falls short of being the answer to the Valley’s water woes, even after all this waiting, points to an issue in project planning and implementation. In fact, this is a systemic problem seen in many of the large projects in Nepal, ‘national pride’ designated or otherwise. Delays in the construction of the Gautama Buddha Airport and the renovations planned for Tribhuvan International Airport have bottlenecked tourism growth. And the other international airport in Pokhara has only just begun construction, years after planning began. The much touted improvement and expansion of the Ring Road from Koteshwor to Kalanki is near completion. And only recently did the authorities realise that the project lacks safety features such as a median strip to divide traffic directions and enough pedestrian crossings to cross over this high speed road. These are but a few examples of the many instances where improper planning and lax implementation has led to delays and cancellations of massive projects.
As Melamchi—hopefully—nears completion, people can look forward to the second phase of this project. If completed on time by the end of 2019, this promises to bring in 500 million litres of water daily to Kathmandu Valley, finally bringing surplus water to the Valley’s residents. The KP Oli-led government has an opportunity to use the next five years to at least improve planning and implementation of projects already in the pipeline, such as Melamchi Phase II. Without focusing on improvement, however, the government will have a tough time delivering on its promises of economic development and prosperity