The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of Nepal celebrated the breakthrough of the first key section of the Melamchi Tunnel on 28 Dec 2016. When completed, the Melamchi Tunnel will carry to Nepal’s thirsty Kathmandu Valley 170 million litres of water per day from the Melamchi River and another 340 million litres of water from the Yangri and Larke Rivers by 2021.
“We are literally seeing light at the end of the tunnel,” said Kenichi Yokoyama, Country Director of ADB’s Nepal Resident Mission. “We have been committed to this crucial project through thick and thin and are glad that water will soon start flowing.”
The just-completed 9-kilometre (km) tunnel section runs between Sundarijal at the end of the Melamchi Tunnel, where water will flow into a water treatment plant for distribution to Kathmandu residents, and Sindu, further upstream. Two other sections of the full 27.5 km Melamchi Tunnel will be finished in 2017 with the tunnel expected to start carrying water from the fourth quarter.
“It is a joyous moment to people who are instrumental in bringing the project to the current status. We consider this achievement a major milestone towards completing the construction of one of the longest water diversion tunnels. We appreciate the support and cooperation provided by people of the Melamchi Valley,” said Ghanashyam Bhattarai, Joint Secretary and Executive Director of the Melamchi Water Supply Development Board.
ADB has provided a total of $145 million in loans for the $355.4 million Melamchi Water Supply Project and has been working since 2000 with the government to build the tunnel, 29 km of access roads, and — with financing from the Japan International Cooperation Agency — a water treatment plant. The April 2015 earthquake and subsequent difficulties in getting construction materials were the latest setback to the project.
The project is also providing social development support to families in the Melamchi Valley such as health, education, and income generation programmes.
In a related project, ADB has lent Nepal $170 million through the Kathmandu Valley Water Supply Improvement Project to provide water connections and expand reservoirs so the 3.5 million people of the Kathmandu Valley can benefit from the new tunnel and receive affordable and reliable water.
ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, ADB in December 2016 will mark 50 years of development partnership in the region. It is owned by 67 members — 48 from the region. In 2015, ADB assistance totalled $27.2 billion, including cofinancing of $10.7 billion.