Fluid of life
- There is a need to increase investment in clean drinking water
Mar 24, 2015-
In 2012, three years before its deadline, the world reached the Millennium Development Goal target of halving the number of people without access to safe drinking water. Between 1990 and 2010, more than two billion people gained access to improved drinking water sources—public tap/standpipe, piped water, tube-well/bore-hole, protected well or spring, rainwater collection, bottled water. In Nepal, 76 percent had access to improved sources of water in 1990 which increased to 89 percent in 2010. This progress has also been reflected in the Nepal Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2014 findings released by the Central Bureau of Statistics earlier this year. Almost all households in Nepal, ie, 93 percent have access to improved sources of water. Of those without access to clean water sources, 14 percent treat water before use. This is undoubtedly heartening.
However, there are ample reasons to postpone celebrations. Seventy-one percent of water sources are contaminated with faecal coliform. Furthermore, even among those with access to improved sources, for an increasing number of people across the country, availability of water is a more pressing problem. Two years ago, over four dozen families from Soyak, Illam had to migrate elsewhere due to want of water. The village had taps, but no water as its source had dried up. Likewise, Kathmandu Valley has been waiting for the completion of the Melamchi Drinking Water Project for ages. The only way out of this acute shortage, for most, is to depend on groundwater. As a result, Nepal, along with India, China, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, accounts for nearly half the world’s total groundwater use, according to the UN World Water Development Report 2015, released last Friday.
Still, the concerned agencies would do well to ponder the UN’s verdict that “the global water crisis is one of governance, much more than of resource availability”. One way to address this problem, as highlighted by the report, would be to acknowledge the role of women in managing local water resources. Building on this, the government and I/NGOs, along with community-based organisations, should ensure maximum participation of women in drinking water-related projects. Likewise, while the links between water supply, sanitation, and hygiene have been established by now, the high levels of risk of contamination demand more investment. More so as the returns on investment in water and sanitation are exceptionally high in developing countries like Nepal—an estimated $5 to $28 per dollar.
In the long run, there is an urgent need to rethink the use of water. Constructing recharge ponds, harvesting rainwater and reusing kitchen wastewater could be some ways to go about it. Ill-planned settlements in cities, particularly slums, also need more programmes as their inhabitants face greater risks of diseases resulting from water contamination.
Published: 25-03-2015 08:53