New accusations of irregularites are adding to the frustation of consumers in the Kathmandu Valley, where water company, KUKL, is not able to supply enough drinking water either through pipelines or by tankers.
First, Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited (KUKL) was not able to spend its allocated annual budget of Rs. 48 million meant for improving water supply infrastructure, and is now asking the government to reallocate the remaining budget in other areas such as voluntary retirement schemes. Earlier, Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC), which holds 30 per cent shares in KUKL, had raised questions about the utility’s extravagance on monthly “meeting allowances” and failure in delivery.
“KUKL is a total mess and is serving as a playground for donor agencies,” said Prakash Amatya, executive director of NGO Forum for Urban Water and Sanitation, which has been advocating transparency, accountability and integrity in KUKL. “It is no wonder if most of the budget is spent on consultants’ salaries.”
Second, local residents in Kaldhara found out that KUKL staff had organised an unscheduled water delivery one day at midnight while only informing their relatives about it. Kaldhara residents get water only once every 5 days.
Third, former project staff and other government officials, including Former Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, have been accused of unauthorised use of eleven expensive vehicles belonging to the Melamchi Water Supply Project. In some cases government registration plates have been replaced by private ones. Meanwhile the project is spending Rs. 0.3 million a month on hired vehicles for its consultants.
The Kathmandu Valley needs about 280 million litres of water daily but KUKL can only supply 150 million litres in the rainy season and 100 million litres in the dry season. About 200 tankers are needed to supply additional drinking water in the Valley but there are only 160 tankers available. Many private tanker operators, some of whom are suspected of supplying untreated surface water, are filling the gap.
Groundwater sources are also being depleted in the Kathmandu Valley, where groundwater levels are decreasing and handpump wells are drying up. KUKL has reported about a 15% decrease in water production from groundwater sources as well.
KUKL is preparing a two-year pre-Melamchi Drinking Water Project before the completion of the main Asian Development Bank-supported Melamchi Water Supply Project. KUKL has asked the government to allocate the Rs. 520 million in the coming fiscal year for the project.
KUKL is a private-partnership company set up in February 2008 to replace the Nepal Water Supply Corporation as a pre-condition to get funding from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the major donor for the Melamchi Water Supply Project.
Source: The Kathmandu Post / NGO Forum, 05 Jun 2009 ; Annapurna Post / NGO Forum, 04 Jun 2009 ; Bikash Thapa, Kantipur / NGO Forum, June 26, 2009 ; Dhana Khatiwada, Gorkhapatra / NGO Forum, 27 Jun 2009 ; Mahesh Chaurasiya, Kantipur / NGO Forum, 23 Jun 2009 ; Dinesh Karki, Nagarik / NGO Forum, 25 Jun 2009