Villagers in Halesi face acute water shortage due to delay in construction of water projectWater crisis in Halesi is so acute even during the wet season that some families have begun to leave the villages.
The delay in the completion of a drinking water project in Halesi Tuwachung Municipality in Khotang has put all seven wards of the municipality under a severe water crisis.
Three years ago, the municipality had initiated the Large Scale Pumping Drinking Water Project at a cost of around Rs 317.5 million. The deadline for the project was December 2019.
“The municipality had awarded the contract to Diwa-Mahadev Khmiti but the company failed to complete the construction on time,” said Dilli Chamling, vice-chairperson of the consumer committee responsible for the project.
The project, when completed, is to supply water to 3,825 households of all seven wards of the municipality.
Hirakaji Maharjan, chief at the Federal Water Supply and Sewerage Management Project in Khotang, said that the contractor has yet to construct six lift tanks each between Mahadevbesi and Kavredanda, and Lilima and Bhumjudanda; pipelines in a six-kilometre stretch and transformers.
According to the agreement, the contractor should also construct four reserve tanks each with a capacity of 300,000 litres in Bhunjudanda and Kavredanda.
“The contractor has only constructed four lift tanks so far,” said Maharjan. According to him, around a quarter of the construction work of the project remains to be completed.
“We plan to extend the contract deadline to mid-December 2020. But the contractor company has gone out of contact,” said Maharjan.
Villagers have also complained that the construction company used substandard materials while installing the pipelines.
“Around two metres of the pipeline installed in Salle has already developed rust. The contractor has left the pipes vulnerable to floodwaters,” said Chandra Bahadur Rai, a local of Ward No. 5.
According to Chief District Officer Shaligram Sharma Paudel, his office has received several complaints from the villagers regarding the construction delay and use of substandard materials by the contractor.
“We are talking with the officials of the Water Supply and Sewerage Management Project to take stock of the situation,” said Paudel.
Meanwhile, Raman Sagarmatha-Sagarmatha Ghimire and Lama Construction JV, the construction companies which received contracts to install distribution lines in various wards of the municipality, have not done their work satisfactorily, said Chayantra Rai, the ward chairman of Halesi Tuwachung Municipality Ward No. 7.
“These companies have also delayed their works,” Rai added.
Villagers say that the project work has been delayed due to the carelessness of both the contractor and the consumer committee.
“The chairman, vice-chairman, secretary and treasurer of the consumer committee are all political appointments,” said Renuka Rai, a local of Ward No. 5. “They are all working in collusion with the contractor company; the longer the project is delayed, the more profit they can all make.”
However, Chairman of the municipality Iwan Rai, who is also the chairman of the consumer committee, denied the allegations.
“The construction work has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown,” he said. “The project will be completed within a year now.”
Meanwhile, the water crisis in Halesi is so acute even during the wet season that some families have begun to leave the villages.
“We have been facing water shortage for as long as I can remember,” said 61-year-old Chandra Bahadur Rai, a local of Durchhim Jorkafal, Ward No. 5 of Halesi Tuwachung Municipality. “Villagers have started to migrate elsewhere because of the scarcity of water here.”