“I believe that Lord Pashupatinath blessed the choice to dewater the Melamchi Tunnel as it was being inspected just two days before the major flood in the Melamchi River. The flood would have caused further challenges to the project if the tunnel had not been stopped for dewatering,” writes Madhav Belbase, a former Secretary of the Ministry of Water Supply who is now a member of the Public Service Commission.
Belbase is a well-known engineer who played a key part in bringing water from Melamchi to the valley and distributing it. Belbase is given the title of Bhagirath for his assistance to providing water to thirsty Kathmandu, similar to what Bhagirath, a saint, did in bringing Ganga from heaven to earth.
The road to the project’s beginning site, the project’s dam, the audit tunnel, headwork, bridge, and structures at the starting point were all damaged by the flood generated by heavy rain on June 16.
The project’s permanent infrastructure, such as the main tunnel, were not affected by the flood, despite temporary buildings being damaged.
The Melamchi Drinking Water Project’s Coffer Dam was swept away by the flood.
The Melamchi Drinking Water Development Committee’s spokesperson, Rajendra Panta, stated the Melamchi project’s head work had been discovered buried, and the bridge over Ambathan had been destroyed as well.
The Melamchi flood, according to Panta, also harmed the project’s other temporary structures. The water had washed away the project’s labor camp and buried the headwork, according to Panta.
Given the amount of water and damage caused by Melamchi’s murky floodwaters in the surrounding areas up to the Melamchi market, the decision to seal the tunnel to dewatering for inspection has done no harm to the tunnel.
Despite the fact that the Melamch flood washed away the project offices, equipment, seven personnel, a temporary cofferdam, bridges, road and equipment, and construction materials, the tunnel is still safe and secure.
The 27.5-kilometer tunnel, which took over two decades to complete, is a critical component of the project. Because the tunnel was unaffected by the flood, it is expected to begin water delivery in three to four months.
Pant stated that work on opening the track to the headwork area has begun in collaboration with Helambu Rural Municipality wards 1 and 2.
The Melamchi Water Supply Development Board has announced that work on repairing and reconstructing the road from Melamchi market to the project’s headwork location, which is 18 kilometers away, has begun.
Because the floods have not harmed the project site’s permanent buildings, the MWSDB spokeswoman expressed optimism that water may be delivered to Kathmandu by the end of October once clear water begins to flow through the river.
According to him, entering the tunnel from its end point in Sundarijal for any essential improvements might be done.
The 200-meter-long makeshift tunnel at Ambathan needs to be cleaned because it was filled with sand carried by the flood. According to the proposal, the tunnel might be refilled with water by the end of October if it is cleaned.
The technical crew that was on its way to the project tunnel’s beginning point to inspect the damage to the project structures was only able to go as far as Melamchi Bazaar, about 3 kilometers away.
The seven-member crew, which included project technicians, construction company employees, and consultants, made as as far as Kyul in Sindhupalchwok before returning because the road had been destroyed.
According to spokeswoman Pant, the team returned because it was judged necessary to provide tents, living goods, and food. In a few days, the team will arrive on the scene.
According to him, the team discovered that the flood had cost the project billions of rupees after checking the flooded area by helicopter.
Six laborers from the Melamchi Drinking Water Project went missing in the Melamchi River flood, three Indians and three Chinese nationals apiece.
“The river wiped away the workers’ camp in Ambathan. “They’ve been missing since then,” Panta claimed.
Melamchi floods may have been triggered by Cloud Burst, Landslide Dam Outburst or Avalanche, or some other source, according to an initial investigation by specialists. This is also an important lesson for other hydroelectric and drinking water projects to ensure that all necessary safety procedures and risk assessments are in place before embarking on the endeavour.
Despite the fact that Nepal has seen multiple such cloud outbursts, including one at Kulekhani in 1993 that caused extensive damage to the road and the Kulekhani project, Nepal has failed to learn from its mistakes.