With persistent monitoring from Asian Development Bank (ADB), the 28km tunnel of Melamchi Drinking Water Project is close to a breakthrough. However, the thirsty population of the Kathmandu valley will have to wait for at least another year to get the water from Melamchi.
Although Melamchi Drinking Water Project is technically a drinking water project, this is the first project in Nepal that diverts water from one basin to another, that is, from Kosi to Bagmati.
According to officials, Melamchi Water Supply Project is close to achieving the tunnel breakthrough with less than 90 meters of tunnel remaining to be dug along the Sindhu-Gyalthum stretch.
“If everything goes as planned, tunnel excavation will be completed in two weeks,” said spokesperson for MWSP Sub Project 1 Rajendra Prasad Panta. “Construction of final tunnel support structures is expected to take at least three to four months if the contractor works as promised.”
But there are many things needed before diverting the water in the tunnel from the Melamchi river. “Another four to five months will take to divert the water from Melamchi river to Kathmandu,” said an official. “The next three to four months will see concretization of the tunnel from inside.”
Officials also said that the contractor was yet to build three ventilation shafts, which are drilled through vertical plain above the tunnel. Ventilation shafts are built for the purpose of maintaining air pressure inside the tunnel.
Similarly, construction of headwork, diversion weir, intake structure and desiccating basin to filter the water before being supplied to the tunnel are yet to be built. The MWSP is thus planning to directly supply water from the river through large pipes before the headwork construction is completed.
It will then take another three months to check the entire distribution system before the water is supplied to households, according to the MWSP officials. The Office of Melamchi Drinking Water Project had earlier promised to complete the project by July 26.
Even if water reaches Kathmandu, several months will take for it to go into the new system. Although the JICA supported treatment plant has already been handed over to Melamchi Project, the progress in the second treatment plant is slow as the project has just completed 50 percent work.
Similarly, the distribution system and water storage reservoirs in many places are yet to get completed. The water is said to be supplied to old system for a few more months.
“There are still some works to do as part of pipe connection and construction of reservoirs,” said Bijay Man Shrestha, Manager, and Project Management Unit Chief & Technical Department. “We are working round the clock to complete the work.”
Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Ltd (KUKL), the main distributing office of drinking water, is yet to prepare for the distribution. “Even if we receive water in August 2018, it will take at least another year to cover entire Kathmandu,” said Dr. Mahesh Prasad Bhattarai, General Manager. “I am confident that the water will be reaching all the households of entire Kathmandu by August 2019.”
The project plans to supply 510 million liters of water per day to the Valley from the Melamchi, Yangri, and Larke rivers of Sindhupalchowk district. Initially, it will supply 170 million liters of water of Melamchi River to the Valley and in the second phase the Yangri and Larke rivers will be diverted to Melamchi and an additional 340 million liters of water will be supplied.