Nepal Minute - out of the ordinary


Melamchi water is set to flow down the taps of Kathamndu households later this week, following the completion of repair work on the project’s headworks at Ambathan, Sindhupalchok. It took project technicians two months to clear the debris and fix the structure damaged by recent floods.

First up, Melamchi’s 26.5km tunnel needs to be filled with water, officials said, adding that the snow-fed river’s water will be collected at the Sundarijal treatment plant, located north of Kathmandu valley.

After that, the water will be ready for distribution, which could begin as early as this weekend, according to Melamchi Water Supply Development Board (MWSDB) officials.

A massive landslide and flooding damaged the $800 project in June 2021. The disaster forced authorities to shut the project’s tunnel till the end of monsoon and operate it only in the dry season.


Debris and mudflow on June 15, 2021, caused severe damage to the headworks. Photo: Melamchi Water Supply Development Board

The tunnel was closed on May 31 to avoid possible flooding. “It is the most expensive component of the project and also the most difficult to repair if damaged,” Rajendra Prasad Pant, senior engineer at the MWSDB, told 

“Thankfully, the tunnel was unaffected by this year’s monsoon and needed no additional repair. We just scratched the headworks and opened the gate in front of the tunnel,” he said, adding that clear water was channeled through it.

“After filtration, it will be ready for distribution,” he said, adding that Melamchi water could start flowing down Kathmanduites’ taps “in a day or two”.

The project, developed to supply around 170 million litres of water per day to around 5 million population in the valley, was damaged by a massive debris flow from the Bhremthang area high up in the mountain on June 15, 2021.

The nation’s largest water supply project had plans to divert water from the Yangri and the Larke rivers, located northeast of Melamchi, to the current headworks of Melamchi at Ambathan. 

Melamchi quandary

melamchi headwork site himal acharya1666405939.jpg
Melamchi headworks site. Photo: Himal Acharya/Facebook

Last year’s disaster left the project with many uncertainties, including further investment.

As the headworks, damaged by last year's devastating floods, has been restored temporarily, there will not be a year-round supply of Melamchi water in the valley, according to the project. The water supply will be limited to the dry season for at least a couple of years till the permanent headworks is built.

“It takes time and budget to find a permanent solution. Further research and site survey, access road construction should be carried out before any new contracts to the project will be made,” Pant added.

“In the meantime, we are holding discussions with experts to build infrastructure to ensure year-round water supply.”

Also read: Melamchi shutdown compels engineers to find other water sources

Also read: Efforts on to re-divert Melamchi waters

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