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Water crisis may persist for a decade

Locals of Nhyokha digging the earth to instal a shallow tubewell, contributing to the depletion of groundwater level in the Kathmandu Valley over the years, on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. Photo: THT

Kathmandu, May 16, 2016: Denizens of Kathmandu Valley, who have been expecting respite from severe water crisis after the completion of Melamchi Drinking Water Project, may still have to wait for another decade or so before they get adequate supply of potable water.

Had Melamchi project, with a capacity to supply 170 million litres of water daily, been completed on time by 2007, it could have fulfilled the Valley’s daily demand that was around 200 million litres per day.

But because of long delay in its completion, daily demand of potable water in the Valley has already crossed 370 million litres.

“People will have to wait at least nine more years,” Sanjeev Bikram Rana, executive director at Kathmandu Valley Water Supply Management Board, said. “At its present capacity Melamchi can serve only one-third of the total demand.”

He said 340 million litres of water will be added in Melamchi through the Yangri and Larke Rivers, taking the daily supply to 510 million litres.

According to the board, first of all Melamchi project has to be completed at the earliest. The process of water addition will start only after that. “It will take at least one year for the completion of Melamchi project,” Rana added.

“It is projected that detailed project report, administrative work, construction of 12 km tunnel to add water from the two rivers and other tasks will be over by 2025.”

Melamchi project had prepared 30 years’ water demand chart in 2001. According to the chart, drinking water demand in the Valley was projected at 210 million litres per day in 2007 and 510 million litres by 2030.

The board estimates that the demand will be 500-510 million litres by 2025.

Melamchi Water Supply Development Board has, meanwhile, speeded up project construction to complete it within one year. “Our target is to complete one km of tunnel per month to complete the remaining 12 km of the 27 km long tunnel in one year,” the board’s Executive Director Ghanashyam Bhattarai said.

“Detailed project report of the next project is being prepared with the aim of completing the additional task by 2021.” He said Rs 16 billion had already been invested in the project and it could cost Rs 23 billion till its completion.

Addition of water from the Larke and Yangri Rivers is likely to cost another two billion rupees.

The ambitious Melamchi water project was envisioned in the late 1990s, and the first agreement for its construction was signed in 2003 with funding from donors and development partners.

According to Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited, it has been supplying 90 million litres per day during drought season and 150 million litres per day during the rainy season, against the demand of 370 million litres a day.