Melamchi Tunnel filled with water, test phase begins
When do Kathmanduites get to drink Melamchi water? Officials of the Ministry of Water Supply, who have been facing this question for years, announced at a press conference on Sunday afternoon that the project has entered the completion phase.
The Melamchi tunnel was filled with water at 9:45 am on Sunday. Government officials have called it a great achievement in the construction of the project.
At the press conference, Minister for Drinking Water Bina Magar said that the Melamchi Drinking Water Project will be inaugurated soon. She said that the project is nearing completion due to various technical problems including social and political issues.
But she could not say when the project would be inaugurated. Secretary at the ministry Madhav Belwase also said that the date could not be fixed as it was a technical matter.
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According to the Minister, the inauguration of the project means that Melamchi water will reach the homes of the consumers. However, there is still some time to wait for this.
According to Melamchi Drinking Water Project Chief Tiresh Kumar Khatri, it takes 15 to 20 days to fill the 26 km long tunnel of Melamchi. At present, water is flowing in the tunnel at the rate of 260 liters per second as per the technical criteria for testing. After the tunnel is filled with water, it will be kept the same for about 10 days. After that, water will be released at the rate of 260 liters per second and it will take 15 to 20 days for the tunnel to be emptied.
The quality of the tunnel will be tested after all the water is discharged. It will take about 7 days. If there is any problem in that process, it should be addressed. It is difficult to predict now. And, only after all this work is done will the tunnel be filled with water regularly. The water will be sent to the distribution system through two treatment plants in Sundarijal. Project officials say it will take two to three months to start sending Melamchi water to the main distribution line when all conditions are normal.
Also, permanent dam and sand dredging structure (headworks) of the project have not been constructed yet.
The Chinese company Sino Hydro is expected to complete the headworks by December 2020. As it will take some more time to fill the tunnel with water by making headworks, temporary dams and diversions have been made in the river to divert the headworks under construction. This can fill the tunnel with sand.
New distribution pipelines have been connected in many parts of the city to distribute Melamchi water. Eight new tanks have been built and tanks and pipelines have to be cleaned and tested after the Melamchi water is brought in. Melamchi water will be distributed from old pipes in one third of the area around the Ring Road. New pipes are yet to be laid in Maharajgunj, Dhumbarahi, Samakhusi and Kalanki areas. The problem of leakage is also big as the old pipeline is defunct.
Project Chief Khatri states that “It will take time to manage the distribution system for a year after the water has been brought to Sundarijal” . He said that the old system will be replaced by new ones and water will be delivered to the consumer houses gradually.
Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited will distribute Melamchi water in Kathmandu. The Melamchi Drinking Water Project will start work on the second project to bring water from Yangri and Larke rivers in Sindhupalchowk from the same Melamchi tunnel. The Melamchi Water aims to supply 170 million liters of fresh water daily to the capital, while after the completion of the second project, the supply is expected to reach 540 million liters per day.
As per the agreement, the Ministry of Water Supply and Melamchi Drinking Water Development Committee have provided necessary facilitation to the construction businessmen to complete the remaining works of the tunnel and construction of alternative structures for water diversion within the stipulated time.
Flood warning in Bagmati
The ministry has claimed that the flow of water in Melamchi River, Indus, Gyalthum and other areas including Audit Tunnel as well as Bagmati River could increase at any time. The ministry has advised the public to take special precautions when going to the river bank.