SINDHUPALCHOWK (MELAMCHI), Oct 14: Melamchi water supply project is well known for its tendency to run into rough weathers. While in the past the project was held back by protesting locals, this time around the government terminated the contract of the Chinese company it hired to build the tunnel.
The government, however, still wants the people to belive that the project will be completed by 2016.
In the past, the project suffered some delays after locals obstructed the project demanding financial support and infrastructure development in the region.
They said it was well within their right to demand facilities as quid pro quo because one of the major rivers of their area was being diverted to Kathmandu.
But now the locals claim that the project has suffered more from unnecessary politics than from their protests in the initial phase.
“Over politicization by the government and political parties are more responsible for the delay,” said Bhawanath Lamichhane, a resident of Mahankal VDC in Sindhupalchowk.
They contend that the government was careless in selecting the contractor. “The project again suffered a setback due to the government decision to select a lowest bidding Chinese contractor, compromising on quality,” said Jimi Lal Majhi, of Bansbari VDC in Sindhupalchowk.
“We had selected the best company through the bidding process but it is regrettable that the company proved incapable of completing the works in time,” said Ghanashyam Bhattarai, Deputy Executive Director of Melamchi Water Supply Development Board (MWSDB).
The board has already initiated the process to select another construction company after the termination of the Chinese contractor, as per MWSDB.
According to the board, about Rs 8.5 billion rupees has already been invested in the project and it would require additional Rs 10 billion or more to complete the project. Out of the planned 27 km diversion tunnel, only 6 km was constructed in the last three years even though the Chinese contractor had promised to complete the entire project by next year.
The China Railway 15 Bureau Group Corporation completed only about 15 percent of the works in the last three years and the locals were not happy with the contractor´s pace.
“We hope the contractor will resume the works soon and the project will be completed on time,” added Majhi, who is a local leader.
Five weeks ago, the Chinese contractor had informed the Melamchi Board that it has decided to withdraw from the project, citing problems over payment and lack of support from the board. Just three days after submitting the withdrawal letter, however, the Chinese company again sought support from the government to resume the work.
But the board decided to terminate the contractor and select a new one within six months.
The locals said that they no longer have any issues with the Melamchi project. “We have been blamed many times for the delay. But now we know how things go wrong due to the carelessness of the government,” said Shiva Nepal of Bansbari VDC.