But the project could not meet its completion date of March 2018 because the government cancelled CMC di Ravenna’s contract, reportedly because it refused to pay extortion to bureaucrats in Singha Darbar. China’s SinoHydro then took over, and had been rushing to catch up with the schedule when the COVID-19 lockdown hit.
Contrary to popular belief, the water will not be gushing through the tunnel. In fact, it has a gradient of only 8m between the intake in Melamchi and the outlet in Sundarijal giving it a water velocity of only 0.5m/second which means it will take 45 hours for the water to complete its underground journey.
This is the monsoon, and the water flow in the Melamchi makes it a raging torrent. However, in the dry season flow goes down to 2.4 cubic meters per second (cumec) of which only 2 cumec of water will be diverted into the tunnel. There are 1.5 km of access tunnels located near the intake in Ambathan, in Gyalthum and Sindhu.
On 5 July, the first water was let into the tunnel amidst a religious ceremony. Tiresh Khatri of the Melamchi project said: “This is a milestone, we will be doing more tests and hopefully water will reach Kathmandu by September.”
However, engineer Shekhar Khanal said there still a lot of unfinished work that will take months. His estimate for water to reach Kathmandu: early 2021.
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