MELAMCHI PROJECT Uncertain Again

With the apathy of the government led by Nepali Congress leader Sher Bahadur Deuba, the restoration work of Melamchi project is yet to start, which is why water supply in the valley is going to remain uncertain for now

Dec. 28, 2021, 11:07 a.m. Published in Magazine Issue: VOL. 15, No. 10, Dec.24, 2021 (Poush 09,2078) Publisher and Editor: Keshab Prasad Poudel Online Register Number: DOI 584/074-75

Damaged by a flood of Melamchi river in the middle of June, Melamchi Drinking Water Project, which was completed in almost two decades, is now facing uncertainty regarding its restoration work.

Unlike his predecessor K.P. Sharma Oli, the government led by Nepali Congress leader Sher Bahadur Deuba has shown a complete apathy towards the restoration of the project which, with will, can be done within a matter of months.

With his individual ambition to make impossible projects possible, former Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli and his team former minister Mani Thapa and highly qualified and technically sound secretary Madhav Balbase took all major decisions to make virtually impossible work of bringing water to Kathmandu from Melamchi.

Prime Minister Deuba, who landed in the policy custody over a decision on Melamchi in 2004, has shown no interest in the project. Given the current apathy of the government, it is unlikely for valley residents to see water coming to Kathmandu from Melamchi anytime soon.

The project supplied water for three months in the valley before it suffered significant damages from the June 15 devastating flood in the Melamchi River.

Although Melamcnhi Development Committee has set a plan to (re)open the approach road in coordination with the Department of Roads, Nepali Army and the local governments to repair damaged structures and restore the water supply by mid-April 2022, it is yet to mobilize contractors and others staffs.

For Nepali Congress, which secured 7 parliamentary seats from Kathmandu valley, the apathy shown by the coalition government led by its party leader Deuba will be costly in coming elections.

Despite the restoration plan by the Melamchi Drinking Water Development to restore damaged structures, the ministry is yet to take a decision on it.

As the winter is almost at the mid-stage and only four-to-five months are left to start the work in full swing, the dilly dally of the concerned ministry has made the project uncertain.

According to Committee information officer Rajendra Prasad Panta, the project headwork remains buried under 10-15 meters of the flood sediments.

He said that they were thinking of alternative water diversion, as it was not possible to divert water from the headwork immediately.

The details of losses in the project caused by the flood followed by subsequent floods have already been assessed and the committee has reportedly recommended the way out. However, no one is taking the decision on it.

Instead of starting the restoration work, the government is considering two new alternatives to Melamchi. Deuba government’s approach has created confusion whether the project will be repaired anytime soon.

At a time when everyone is questioning about the resumption of repair, the government’s view about alternatives has put the project on an uncertain course.

All the officials are keeping mum over the damage caused to the Melamchi Drinking Water Project by the floods and the resumption of work to revive the project.

It is reported in media that government has started working on two alternatives to supply water in the valley. Government is planning to bring water from Melamchi only in winter with a proposal to dig new bore holes in 10 places of the valley.

At a time when the water levels in the valley have already gone down, boring more holes will be risky for the valley’s landscape.

Executive Director of the Melamchi Water Supply Development Board, Basudev Paudyal, admitted that there is a long-term challenge to bring water to the Kathmandu Valley until the floods and landslides of the Melamchi River are controlled.

Paudyal said that preparations are underway to start work on the project headworks to bring water temporarily.

Showing the uncertainty of the project, Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited (KUKL) has already started boring drills in different places of Kathmandu Valley.

Given the nature of present coalition government and its apathy to the project, it is unlikely for residents to see the restoration of water supply from Melamchi any time soon. People of Kathmandu Valley have to rely more on private tankers to fetch low quality water for some more time.

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