Kathmandu’s mayoral and parliamentary candidates promised to flood Kathmandu with water from Melamchi during election campaigns two decades ago. Since then, completing the Melamchi Water Supply Project, which is expected to pump 170 million liters of water a day (MLD) to Kathmandu, has become a major development agenda for each successive government. Melamchi—one of the National Pride Projects—has become a synonym for corruption, bureaucratic logjams and sheer incompetence of those running the show in Singha Durbar.
The authorities first announced to complete the much-awaited project, which was initiated two decades ago, by 2007. Later, they revised the deadline to 2016 and again to October 2017. Now, they are once again setting a fresh deadline of March 2018. This, at times, reeks of insensitivity on the part of those at the helm of affairs, and seems like mocking Kathmandu residents who are facing acute shortage of water for years.
Kathmandu’s citizens have been repeatedly betrayed by false promise of politicians to complete the project on time. To make the matters worse, the city is now enveloped in unbearable dust pollution from dug roads to lay pipes for the water project. Hospitals in the city are reporting increased number of respiratory-related patients. Children and old people have been especially hit hard.
The never ending dispute as to who is responsible for blacktopping roads among Department of Road, Melamchi Project and Kathmandu Metropolitan City has only gotten worse over the years. They are busy blaming each other for the poor road condition. Various researches have shown rapidly declining underground water reservoir in Kathmandu, which was also attributed to as one of reasons for the 2015 earthquakes.
The acute shortage of water in the Valley has resulted in excessive pumping from the underground. This will continue until the Melamchi project can deliver water.
The urgency of Melamchi need not be mentioned here again but given the poor track record of every project missing the deadline, too often in case of Melamchi, many Kathmanduites will believe in Melamchi only when they get to use Melamchi water in their households.
We, as a country, have already invested billions on this project. Further delay will be costly in terms of water crisis, additional financial burden, public health and dust pollution. There is no other way to prevent this than by concentrating all efforts on it, working round the clock, and making each stakeholder involved responsible not to the miss deadline, again.
Millions of people living in Kathmandu have suffered immensely and have patiently waited for over two decades. But for them it has remained the most cherished and yet most delayed project. Failing again to complete this project by promised date of March 2018 would be an unpardonable crime. The authorities involved must focus in completing the work and start repairing roads at the earliest.