The Melamchi pipe dream is now no longer a mirage. Kathmandu residents’ 22-year-long wait for drinking the fresh water from pristine Melamchi River located in Sindhupalchok district has eventually come to an end. The water from the river has arrived at Sundarijal of Kathmandu on Saturday, traversing through a 26-km-long tunnel. If things go as planned, the Melamchi water will flow from the taps of the Valley denizens from next month. This is soothing news for thirsty people of the capital city. After completing all necessary works, the Melamchi Water Supply Project (MWSP) had started to fill the tunnel from February 22. The water was channelled into the tunnel for trial purpose and to detect the possible technical glitches that occur in the aftermath of its construction. Once the test work is completed, the water of Melamchi will be discharged into water treatment facilities at Sundarijal. A treatment facility with a capacity of treating 85-million-litres of water per day has been constructed while another will be ready soon. The treated water will then flow through a 1400-mm-diameter pipeline to 10 storage reservoirs around the Valley.
The water flowing through the tunnel at Sundarijal was released into the Bagmati River. Since it was supplied into the tunnel for the first time, it is full of mud and sand. The supply of the water will be halted for some time to make sure that no technical problems surface in the tunnel. The MWSP has estimated that the tunnel will be flushed out in two weeks. In July 2020, the water was sent into the tunnel but the strong force of water broke the gates, killing two employees including an engineer. The authorities have taken a lesson from this error and have now applied long-term safety measures. The project, which was slated to be completed by 2008, is designed to divert about 170 million-litre per day (MLD) of fresh water to Valley. It plans to add additional 140 MLD from the Yangri and Larke rivers, which lie in the upstream proximity of Melamchi.
The other day Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli turned on a switch to open the gate of the tunnel at Sundarijal amidst a special function. PM Oli said that it was the news of happiness to all those living in the Valley. “Water will be distributed in Kathmandu within a few days,” he said. The PM also described the time the project took to complete. “My hairs were all black when the talks about Melamchi Drinking Water Project were in the air. But by the time it has been completed, there remain no black hairs on my head,” the PM quipped. His remarks also carry subtle irony that there was an inordinate delay in completing the project considered the most viable long-term alternative to ease the chronic water shortage in the Valley. The MWSP had finished the construction works in June last year after a repeated extension of the deadline. The present government had recognised MWSP as the pride project and intensified works to finish it without further delay. Though it is not assumed as the successful project given the time and money it consumed, it has finally brought a lot of joys to the people.