Melamchi’s tunnel visionLawmakers are increasingly getting concerned over the slow pace tunnel excavation works in the recent months.
The construction of 27.5 km tunnel, which is expected to end the acute water crisis in Kathmandu Valley by mid 2016, is not moving at a satisfactory pace due to poor management from the contractor, said Ghanashyam Bhattarai, executive director at the Melamchi Water Supply Development Board, the focal implementing agency under the Ministry of Physical Planning and Works (MoPPWs). Only 9.9 km of the planned 27.5 km tunnel has been completed so far.
“The construction work is not moving at the required pace,” said Bhattarai. “The contractors are working and the project activity has not been halted as in the previous time. But to complete the project on time, they need to put in extra effort.”
Under the previous contractor, China Railway 15 Bureau Group, the tunnel construction had seen a very little progress. The Chinese contractor was supposed to complete all construction works related with the tunnel by September 2013, but it had only dug 6.5 km out of the planned 27.5 km tunnel in three years.
In September 2012, the government terminated the contract issued to China Railway 15 Bureau Group due to its dismal performance while developing diversion tunnel and headwork of the much-anticipated project expected to bring in additional 170 million litres water per day inside Kathmandu Valley.
The construction work was halted until the government awarded the contract to the Italian firm, CMC Cooperativa Muratori e Cementisti di Ravenna, in July, 2013 . The MWSDB awarded the contract to CMC with a responsibility to complete the project by February 19, 2016.
“However, the construction activity on the field is not found satisfactory as expected and the concerns are being raised on timely completion of the project,” said Rabindra Adhikari, chair of the Development Committee of the Parliament. The Adhikari-led team had visited the tunnel construction site to inspect the ongoing works last week. “We will check with the concerned authorities and officials about slow pace of the work and direct the concerned ministries and department to expedite the project in order to meet the expected deadline.”
The Ministry of Urban Development and MWSP were asked to ramp up the tunnel construction works to improve the drinking water situation inside the Kathmandu Valley in the next one and half years. The Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited, the sole utility for distribution of drinking water inside the Kathmandu, can barely meet even 50 percent of the drinking water demand of 400 millions of litres per day.
Of the total three adits—- Sindhu, Gyalthum and Ambathan, the construction works between Sindhu and Gyalthum is facing challenges due to weak rock structure and poor geology.
Though the Melamchi project was envisioned in the late 1990s, the first agreement to construct the project was signed in 2003, with the funds from various donors and developmental partners. The project activity took off only in 2010, seven years after the agreement was signed. The Asian Development Bank had pledged to provided the fund worth USD 137 million while Nepal government was to invest USD 90 million for the ambitious project.