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Story Publication logo November 1, 2015

Nepal: Waiting for Water


Image by Pierre Kattar. Nepal, 2015.

In eastern Nepal, a Hepatitis E epidemic infected over 5,000 people, killing over a dozen. But in...

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Still under construction after more than ten years, the Melamchi water tunnel has faced numerous delays and setbacks. Image by Pierre Kattar. Nepal, 2015.

Over 10 years ago, the government of Nepal approved the construction of a water tunnel that promised to deliver much needed drinking water to residents in Kathmandu, Nepal's capital city. Originally scheduled for completion by the end of 2007, construction is only half completed.

Less than half of Kathmandu's residents have access to piped water. That's during the rainy season when water is more abundant. Those who can afford it have to buy water for basic necessities like drinking, taking baths and cleaning dishes. No one really knows how safe the drinking water is. Waterborne diseases like cholera, dysentery and Hepatitis E kill thousands every year.

Government officials say the new tunnel called, The Melamchi Water Supply Project, will help alleviate the water shortages and provide clean drinking water. But residents in Kathmandu are skeptical. The project has faced numerous delays. The Chinese company, China Railway 15 Bureau Group, originally hired to do the job, was fired for lack of progress. In 2012, an Italian construction company, Cooperativa Muratori E Cementisti di Ravenna (CMC), was hired to finish the more than 20 KM of tunnel left to dig. They're "as good as the Chinese so far," said Rajan Pandey, the deputy of the development project. The tunnel is supposed to be finished by the end of 2016 but more delays plague the project. All construction was put on hold for 15 days after the earthquakes in April. More recently, CMC stopped construction again, citing lack of materials due to strikes in several parts of the country.



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