KATHMANDU, Jan 11: Amid huge public outcry regarding air pollution in the Kathmandu Valley, the Ministry of Water Supply and Sanitation has instructed the Project Implementation Department (PID) of Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited (KUKL) to speed up its pipe laying works and to take concrete measures to mitigate the environmental hazards arising from it.
Worried over the worsening air pollution, the ministry on Wednesday summoned PID officials and contractors to track their work progress in accomplishing the ambitious Melamchi Water Supply Project (MSWP) that would supply drinking water to about four million people of the Valley. The project has been contributing to extensive dust pollution in the valley after it started digging roads and laying pipes haphazardly since the past few years.
However, the PID and contractors are unwilling to take the blame and have been insisting that their contribution to the pollution is very minimal, which is against the public's viewpoint. Raising the same issue, Secretary Gajendra Kumar Thakur of the ministry urged the PID officials and contractors not to overlook their own fault and blame others for contributing to the pollution.
“As the issue is directly related with the public's health, we cannot afford to play blame games and turn a blind eye to the contribution to pollution from our side,” said Secretary Thakur. “I know it's a challenging work on our part and we have lots of problems. But if our contractors give the best efforts, it is not impossible to mitigate pollution from our side,” he said.
Most of the infrastructural works for the project have reached the final phase now. The PID has already laid a total of 65,000 meters of pipelines out of the total 77,500 meters for bulk distribution system. Likewise, the PID claimed to have laid 617,390 meters pipelines out of 730,000 meters for the improvement in distribution network.
The news comes as a great relief to the denizens of Kathmandu Valley who have been suffering from immense health hazards due to dust and other forms of pollution caused by the MSWP. Residents, pedestrians and motorists alike face severe health risks and inconvenience due to the resulting dust and pollution as well as traffic snarls created by the pipe laying works.
Even when the PID and contractors claim to have taken measures to mitigate the dusts, such as by sprinkling waters on roads, using safety nets on construction site and working at night, the public has been continually complaining against the inefficiency of such measures. They have argued that such measures are not taken on regular interval and are done just for the sake of show off instead of genuine concerns.
“We are aware of the hassles for public that the project has created. We are also aware that most of our strategies to mitigate the dust pollution have not worked efficiently,” noted PID/KUKL Project Director Tiresh Prasad Khatri. “Hence, our current strategy is to complete the project as soon as possible to bring quick respite to the public.”
According to him, the PID only has 3.5 kilometers of pipe laying activities remaining in busy road stretches of the Valley, including in places such as Tripureshwar, Thapathali, Old Baneshwar, New Baneshwar and Tangal.
Helpless residents, on the other hand, can only remain hopeful of the fast completion of the long-stagnant project that would not only minimize the pollution and traffic snarls, but also address chronic water shortage of the Valley.