Melamchi project to take at least 18 months to complete

Kathmandu , June 4th 2019

Water from the Melamchi river in Sindhupalchok is unlikely to come to the homes in Kathmandu Valley this Dashain or even next – the government’s ritual deadline – as the Melamchi Water Supply Project will require a minimum of one and a half years to complete the remaining works.

The new deadline comes nearly four months after the termination of contract with the project’s main contractor – the Italy-based Cooperativa Muratori e Cementisti di Ravenna (CMC). The government has announced fresh bids for completion of the project by dividing the whole project into two main packages.

The Melamchi Water Supply Development Board – the main body responsible for implementing the national pride project – has invited bids for completing the remaining works. For this, the board has divided the incomplete works into headworks and tunnel construction and assigned them various periods for completion.

The new builders will get 15 months and 12 months for completing the remaining headworks and tunnel construction respectively, according to Rajendra Prasad Pant, the board spokesperson.

With the new timeframe, it would take at least one and a half years for completing the remaining works of the first phase in which 170 million litres water will be diverted daily from Melamchi River to Kathmandu Valley.

“The time given is maximum. Work can complete early as well,” said Pant.

Since the Italian builders abandoned the project midway in December last year before the matter escalated and led to the termination of contract, the project has remained in limbo. The announcement of completing the project by hiring local contractors after breaking down the task is the first significant progress towards resuming the stalled works.

The plan of breaking down the remaining works into smaller packages, a long-thought measure by the government and donor agencies for completing the project in time, got a green-signal from the Cabinet on May 20.

“Bidding has been opened after dividing the project into packages,” Pant told the Post.

The board has retained the previous eight firms for delivering supplies and designing structures like hydromechanical gates to avoid the complication of hiring new vendors. However, it would take a few months before work begins on the ground.

Both bids have separate deadlines. Once the board evaluates the proposals, the selected bidder will be asked to deposit bank guarantee and assigned the date to start work, said Pant, admitting that completion of the project is likely to take long.

After missing several deadlines over the years, the government in its federal budget has claimed that the first phase of project will be completed within the fiscal year 2019-20.

When the fiasco between the government side and CMC officials started last year, both sides had said only 10 percent work remained for water to be diverted through the tunnel.

“Construction in the headworks area takes time as it depends on monsoon. Increased water level in the river can halt works,” said Pant.

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