Finally, the long-cherished dream of the Kathmanduites to have drinking water from the Melamchi River of Sindhupalchowk district has come true. The Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited (KUKL) has begun distributing the water to different areas in the Valley since Sunday afternoon. KUKL officials launched the water supply from the Mahankalchaur-based reservoir to Chabahil, Saraswatinagar, Maijubahal, Gaushala and Airport areas where the households received the water for six hours. It also supplied the water to Anamnagar, Ghattekulo and Dillibazaar areas. KUKL aims to distribute the water through the Khumaltar-based reservoir as well in the first phase. The valley residents will now get the water on alternate days. On February 22 this year, the water from Melamchi had arrived at Sundarijal as part of testing its 26.3-km tunnel. The water had been released into the main tunnel in the intake area at Helambu Rural Municipality-1 in Sindhupalchowk.
The authority is gradually distributing the drinking water to other areas of the valley as well through its different reservoirs built at various locations. With the distribution of the water supplied by the Melamchi Water Supply Project (MWSP), the valley residents will now heave a sigh of relief as it is going to help address the acute shortage of water. According to KUKL, around 45 million litres of water was sent to the reservoirs in the Kathmandu Valley on the first day. The amount of water to be distributed was increased to 60 million litres a day on Monday while it is planning to increase the quantity of water to 85 million litres on Tuesday. The project had started to fill the reservoirs since Sunday morning. All the reservoirs of KUKL are going to be filled up with Melamchi water from Tuesday onwards.
One of the two water treatment plants based at Sundarijal is now in operation. Each plant has a capacity of 8.5 million litres. The next plant is also coming to into operation soon. The ponds at the plant will be filled for seven days before releasing water to the bulk distribution system through which the water will reach the 10 reservoirs at different locations in the valley. The Melamchi Water Supply Development Board said that the newly installed pipelines would be flushed and cleaned before sending water to the households. The board has estimated that it would take about seven months to take water to every corner of the distribution. But the water coming from the Melamchi River will now be distributed only through KUKL’s supply network. The remaining networks will be connected with KUKL's central network only after water from Yangri and Larke rivers in Sindhupalchowk is brought to the valley. In its second phase, the MWSP aims to bring additional 340 million litres of water daily from these two rivers.
With the financial support of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and other donors, the MWSP had started to be implemented some two decades back. Its first phase was supposed to be completed back in 2008. But the project failed to be completed as scheduled owing to various reasons ranging from the decade-long Maoist insurgency, the devastating 2015 earthquake and the Indian blockade, the fleeing of the Italian contractor company CMC to the COVID-19 pandemic. Chinese contractor company – Sinohydro - has carried out the remaining works. These factors led to the multiple deadline extensions and cost overruns. The MWSP, however, is the first national pride project to be completed. This is certainly an important achievement.