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Clean Water Supply: Big challenge for Nepal

Weak financial conditions, climate change and difficult terrain are challenging Nepal’s water supply system.


Nepalnews
2023 Jan 26, 11:27, Kathmandu

In 2023, millions of Nepali people are still deprived of basic water and sanitation facilities. The scenario is even worse in underdeveloped regions of Sudurpaschim and Karnali.

A hope filled project begun in 1972 to connect Kathmandu with Melamchi’s water was damaged by the flood and landslide resulting from the melting of glaciers. Unaccountability to climate change risks destroyed a decades-long water supply project to supply clean piped water to Kathmandu. Currently, the Government of Nepal is executing a ‘water plan’ which is expected to be achieved in the year 2027. The plan has sought to improve the basic level of water supply of 50 percent of the Nepalese population by the year 2027. Nepal has also received a $80 million grant from the World Bank in order to improve the water supply system in the country, the money will be used in improving water supply in the most neglected regions of Nepal :Karnali and Sudurpaschim. However, such projects cannot ignore what the future holds for Nepal with the ongoing climate change phenomena.

A recent 2021 study, ‘Drinking water status in Nepal: an overview in the context of climate change’, reveals the threats posed by climate change to Nepal’s water and sanitation facilities. According to the study, although Nepal has increased facility type, non piped water from 36 percent in the year 2000 to 44 percent in 2017, safely managed water supply sources have been decreasing from 24 percent to 18 percent. Adding evidence to the research’s findings, nearly all urban water supply services in major cities of Nepal need substantive improvements. The current urban water supply system is unable to cater to the needs of municipal uses of water, such as water for fire fighting, street cleaning, city greeneries, recreation, public drinking and washing facilities. This has to do with the weak financial condition of the Ministry of Urban Development in Nepal.

The recent report produced by the Department of Water Supply and Sewerage Management (DWSSM), shows that merely 51.69% of the population have piped water coverage and the remaining 48.31% are relying on un-piped locally and privately managed water supply mechanisms. However, the overall country scenario misses the existent regional disparity in Nepal in regards to execution of water supply and sanitation projects.

The joint monitoring conducted by WHO and UNICEF in the year 2020, shows an even dire situation. Only 18 percent of the Nepalese population have access to safely managed drinking water supply all year around. “Many in remote areas have to rely on small brooks running from the mountains and spend hours travelling to get water. Still the drinking water available is not always safe as supplied water is often polluted. Excluded communities in Nepal have limited access to water supply,” says Niranjan Shrestha the chief environmental officer of Environmental Services Nepal Pvt. Ltd. He emphasizes on the consideration of environmental impact before executing water system development activities in Nepal, which is often overlooked.


The deprivation of basic water facilities mainly faced by Nepali people living in underdeveloped regions account for an huge economic impact not only to Nepal but South Asia as a whole. Economic cost of ill health, medical treatment, loss of time, and opportunities caused by the lack of access to basic needs like water account for an estimated loss of $34billion in the south Asian region. Such losses are keeping south Asian countries aback from being economically independent which is making them more and more reliant on international grants and loans.


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