Print Edition - 2015-03-22  |  Free the Words

For want of water

  • The demand for water continues to increase but even major cities are not able to meet the needs of citizens
- Arjun Kumar Khadka
For want of water

Mar 21, 2015-

The need for water is universal and without water, life as we know it will cease to exist. Water may be everywhere but its use has always been constrained in terms of availability, quantity, and quality. In Nepal, for instance, there is sufficient water available for use but it is not reaching consumers due to the lack of appropriate planning and management.

Water, water everywhere

The world’s water problems are neither homogenous nor constant or consistent over time. They vary significantly from one region to another, even within a single country, from one season to another. In Nepal, for example, the rainy season provides sufficient water, compared to other seasons. Solutions to water problems depend not only on water availability but also on many other factors, among which are the processes through which water is managed; the

competence and capacities of the institutions that manage them; prevailing socio-political conditions that dictate water planning; development and management processes

and practices; implementation of existing and appropriate legal frameworks;

availability of investment funds; social and environmental conditions of the countries concerned; levels of available and practical technology; national, regional, and international perceptions; modes of governance including political interferences, transparency, corruption, governance educational, and development conditions; and the status, quality, and relevance of research being conducted on national, sub-national, and local water problems.

Internationally, joint efforts have been made to deal with water-related problems. International Water Day is one such effort, marked on March 22 every year. In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly designated March 22 as the first World Water Day and since then, this day has been marked across the world. This year’s theme is ‘Water and Sustainable Development’, which is significant because the International Decade for Action ‘Water for Life’ 2005-2015 is also going to be complete on the same day. The core objective of the decade has been to meet basic human needs through appropriate management of water-related issues and problems, such as providing support to minimise water scarcity, maintain water quality, provide adequate sanitation, and preserve the environment.

The Interim Constitution of Nepal has defined access to water as a fundamental right to all citizens. The country has also formulated a policy to support this constitutional provision, such as setting a target to provide all Nepalis with access to basic water supply and sanitation services by 2017; those currently stand at 85 and 62 percent respectively. However, certain groups and geographical areas are still behind in terms of basic drinking water and sanitation.

The ‘Bir Dhara’ system of water supply was built during 1891-1893, which also led to the establishment of ‘Pani Goshowara Adda’. This provided limited private and community standpipes in few select parts of Kathmandu. Water services were then gradually extended to a few other prominent places. Likewise, in the first Five Year Development Plan, which started in 1956, drinking water and sanitation were placed under the Department of Irrigation, until the Department of Water Supply and Sewerage (DWSS) was formally established in 1972. Since establishment, the DWSS has been providing lead input in the development of water supply and sanitation programmes throughout the country.

Nor any drop to drink

In reality, however, the disparity between urban and rural areas in the availability of water and sanitation, the lack of coordination in the activities of various agencies, and the maintenance of quality and sustainability of services remain major challenges for the country. Even major cities like Kathmandu do not have sufficient drinking water and appropriate sanitation services. In addition, the demand for water is mounting significantly, so access to safe, adequate drinking water becomes even more crucial. The public lacks awareness and education on proper sanitation issues and domestic and industrial waste water treatment plants need to be widespread. In fact, Nepal does not have a sound planning and water management system to provide safe drinking water and proper sanitation services for all citizens.

Thus, to meet the theme of World Water Day, Nepal needs to implement a responsive water management system while promoting decentralisation, building capacity, and strengthening and monitoring evaluation, research, and learning at all levels for proper drinking and sanitation services.


Khadka is Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies

Published: 22-03-2015 08:08

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