35 billion investment, 22 years of hard work. The flood that came in one night shattered.
Melamchi project in confusion again.
When the water of Melamchi, which was ‘like a dream’, fell into the stream of their own house, the people of the capital felt that the misery of water was over. However, that happiness did not last long. The project has been damaged due to the flood in Melamchi River on June 20. It is natural for the river to flood during the rainy season. However, it shows that the ‘potential risk’ was not taken into consideration while constructing such a big project of national pride.
Why not rebuild?
The eight-kilometer road leading to the main structure of the Melamchi Drinking Water Project has not been named due to the floods. Due to the lack of roads, the workers have not been able to reach the main structure and the dozers have not been able to reach immediately. Reconstruction work has not progressed even after two weeks of flood damage.
The project has been badly damaged due to incessant rains from July 1 to 4. The structures of the project starting point, dam, audit tunnel, headworks, access road, bridge and starting point have been damaged. The project staff has low hopes that the main tunnel will not be damaged. The main tunnel is flooded.
While the project was planning to clear the tunnel and inspect it in 60 days and send water back to Kathmandu, the floods caused misery. Despite the President’s inauguration on April 6, the project aimed to provide long-term water supply to the people of Kathmandu within the second half of August.
There is a 22 km road from Melamchi Bazaar to Ambathan with headworks (main dam). The entrance has been partially damaged up to Chanaute. The structure of 8 km road and bridge from Chanaute to Ambathan, the main entrance, has been destroyed. Similarly, the main structure headworks and surrounding structures have been flooded with riverine material brought by the floods. Stones, ballast and sand have accumulated up to 2 km on the surface of the river.
As there is no road leading to the main structure of the project, the project is ready to build the road first and remove the accumulated garbage. A dozer is needed to transport the main structure to Ambathan.
The 200-meter-long temporary tunnel in Ambathan is filled with sand. Spokesperson of the Melamchi Drinking Water Development Committee Rajendra Prasad Pant says that it is necessary to clean the tunnel first. Although the temporary structures were damaged, the project believes that permanent structures such as the main tunnel have not been affected by the floods. A team of Dharmaraj Devkota, Deviraman Adhikari and Loknath Bhattarai led by Director General of the project Madhav Prasad Nepal visited the main structure of the project after the floods.
According to spokesperson Pant, the cover dam of the headworks is not visible. “The main structure of the main dam is only filled with concrete. It is estimated that it has been damaged,” says Pant. It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post.
As the main structure is full, it cannot be confirmed right now whether it will be repaired or completed, says Pant. As it will take a long time to build a permanent structure of the road, it is planned to build a new road temporarily after the end of the rainy season. There is a lot of water flow in Melamchi as it is raining. He says that planning will be done at this time as the water is cloudy and reconstruction will start after the rains.
Of the five bridges at the entrance, all but the red bridge have been washed away. Also, Timbupul, Fattepul and Melamchipul bridges including Nakote bridge at the head of Melamchi drinking water in Helambu have been flooded.
Post-flood reconstruction is estimated to cost Rs 1.88 billion. As there is no condition to reach the project site, the budget to be spent is also estimated. The Melamchi project was completed with the main loan of the Asian Development Bank and the investment of the Government of Nepal. The project has written to the Ministry of Finance to mobilize necessary resources for post-damage reconstruction. The water of Melamchi River was brought to Kathmandu through a 27 km long tunnel.
It will cost more than Rs 1 billion to build a permanent structure of the bridge and road under the flood-damaged entrance. However, as it will take years to build a permanent structure, there is a plan to build an alternative road to the headworks by constructing a temporary structure. It is estimated that it will cost Rs. 100 million to build the temporary structure.
Work will be carried out in collaboration with the local government including Helambu village municipality to build, repair and remove 8 kilometers of temporary road. It is estimated that it will cost Rs. 50 million to open the road track by constructing a temporary structure and Rs.
Similarly, the project has stated that it will cost Rs 30 million to dump the riverine products accumulated in the headworks. Riverine material has accumulated up to 2 km. Spokesperson Pant says that it will cost Rs 30 million to open it and build a temporary structure to bring water.
The main headworks are in the final stages of construction. According to Pant, Rs. 650 million has been spent on the structure under construction at a cost of Rs. 800 million and Rs. 150 million is being paid. Even without the construction of the headworks, Melamchi water was sent to Kathmandu under an alternative water distribution system.
The filter system was also filled
Although the headworks is the main structure, it is a common dam. There is hardly even 2 meters of water stored there. It has a dam structure or water diversion structure and another main structure filter system. Drinking water is sent only after filtering the river water before putting it in the tunnel.
If water is sent without filter in the 27 km long tunnel, the tunnel can be filled even by penetrating small stones. So the filter system was connected so that even the smallest particles would not go away. A filter system has been installed 50 meters from the water diversion to the tunnel. Now everything is filled. There is an automated system to filter 2,000 liters of water per second and send it to the tunnel.
Workers involved in the construction work were also affected by the floods. Even though the project was badly damaged, the project officials did not reach the affected area for three weeks. The local people’s representatives were outraged over this.
Chief of Melamchi Municipality Dambar Aryal had given a statement on whether the project is alive or not. Twenty-six days after the floods, the project handed over checks of financial assistance to the affected Melamchi Municipality and Helmu and Panchpokhari Thangpal Municipality. Even after a month and a half, the project has not started studying the cause of the flood and its possible impact in the future.
The project had set a target of supplying 170 million liters of water from Melamchi to Kathmandu Valley. The target is to bring 51 million liters of water from the capital to Kathmandu by diverting water from Yangri and Larke rivers to Melamchi.
According to Pant, Melamchi water will be delivered to the people of Kathmandu under the alternative distribution system by January this year. However, in case of major damage to the main structure, the main tunnel, the water distribution process will be postponed. The initial study of the project showed that it was a very problematic place. Ranjan Kumar Dahal explained.