KATHMANDU, Sept 28: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has reiterated its commitment to continue support for the long-delayed Melamchi Water Supply Project and help it complete on time.
The promise was made by Juan Miranda, director-general of South Asia Department of the ADB, the major financier of the project on Thursday.
The commitment comes two days after the Melamchi Water Supply Development Board (MWSDB) terminated its agreement with a Chinese contractor appointed to build the 26.3 km tunnel after it demanded more funds than mentioned in the bid document to complete the work.
"We were unlucky to have a contractor that could not make delivery on time. But we will bring another contractor within a short time and finish what has been begun," Miranda told journalists.
The $400-million-plus project that was supposed to address chronic drinking water supply problem of Kathmandu Valley was set in motion in 1998 when MWSDB started looking for funds to build it.
But the dream project soon turned into a pipe dream as factors ranging from Maoist insurgency, political wrangling to protests by locals and inefficiency of contractors presented roadblocks.
Many Kathmanduites now have vain hopes of water from Melamchi ever reaching their drying taps. Yet they unwittingly tend to cast off their pessimism and become optimistic whenever talks about completion of Melamchi project are renewed.
"We know Kathmandu residents expect the project to be complete. And we want to let you know the government, the MWSDB and the ADB are unequivocally committed to complete the project within the deadline of 2015 or early 2016," Miranda said. "We won´t let you down."
Miranda said the latest setback, which led to the ouster of the Chinese contractor, occurred as the bid amount demanded by the company was "not right". "Their price was $30 million lower than the second-lowest bidder," he informed. "But looking back is not going to help."
This time, Miranda said, ADB wants cost and quality to be embedded in proposals of contractors. "Cheapness is not necessarily the right thing, as they may later add cost. We want to pay for the quality this time."
He also informed that the ADB was willing to pump in more money into the project "if that is needed". "We are sure the cost of project will go up but we have to pay for the quality," he said.