Chandan Kumar Mandal, The Kathmandu Post, 10 April 2018
The Melamchi Water Supply Project is poised for a major breakthrough with the 27.5-km tunnel digging work likely to be completed soon.
Only a 7.5-km Sindhu-Gyalthum stretch—the last leg of the tunnel—remains to be dug in the multi-billion project.
The tunnel will deliver water from Melamchi River in Sindhupalchok to Kathmandu.
Information Officer at the Melamchi Water Supply Development Board (MWSDB) Senior Division Engineer Rajendra Prasad Pant said the tunnel breakthrough will bring the project a step closer to the goal of supplying potable water to Kathmandu residents.
“The breakthrough marks the completion of earth excavation parts of the project. Now, only construction works inside the tunnel remain before water supply to households begins,” said Pant.
Crews completed 11 metres of tunnel excavation on Sunday. The last 6.9 metres of the Sindhu-Gyalthum stretch of the total 26.3 km long was left for Monday.
“With the pace of ongoing work, the remaining tunnel digging will be completed by the wee hours of Tuesday,” said Pant.
This stretch has taken long time for completion compared to the 9.5-km Sundarijal-Sindhupalchok section—the longest section of the project.
“Work on this section was sluggish. We could not work as per our target because of the presence of soft rock, making the digging work very difficult,” said Pant.
Last December, digging of the 8.3-km tunnel along the Ambathan-Gyalthum stretch was completed.
The completion of the tunnel would require at least three more months since inside concrete work remains.
Now construction of head works intake structures, including earthworks, ventilation shafts among other tunnel support structures will start soon, Pant said.
Melamchi project, one of Nepal’s 21 ‘national pride’ projects, has seen numerous delays over the years. It was supposed to supply water to households last Dashain, but the deadline extended further to March 26, 2018. Even this date has passed.
The MWSDB official is still unsure about the date of supplying water to households in Kathmandu.
“Remaining construction will take at least three months if contractors work to their full strength and commitment. When the water would flow from taps in Kathmandu depends on how quickly we complete the remaining portion,” said Pant.
Once completed, the project will supply 170 million litres of fresh water every day to the valley in the first phase.
The MWSP has constructed nine service reservoir tanks (SRTS) in Kathmandu to distribute water.
In the second phase, a four-year project has been planned. It will extend a 12-km tunnel to the Yangri and Larke rivers, which lie in the upstream region of the Melamchi River. The second phase of the project will begin in 2019, and it will supply three times more water than the first phase.
According to the Melamchi Board, the valley would receive 510 million litres of water daily after the construction of the second phase is completed.
The Melamchi project was envisioned in the late 1990s. The first agreement for its construction was signed in 2003 with funding from several donors and developmental partners. The project’s original year of completion was 2007. The project’s second deadline expired in 2016, and the deadline was extended to October 2017.