Wednesday Mar 22, 2023
Wednesday Mar 22, 2023

Nepal's weak water supply system results in meagre sanitation

Healthy water supply in the country is much needed for Nepal's overall development

2022 Apr 25, 6:05, Kathmandu
Photo : A man drinks from water tap / flickr
Recent data from the Department of Water Supply and Sewerage Management (DWSSM) in 2019 reported, merely 51.69% of the population have piped water coverage and the remaining 48.31% are relying on un-piped locally and privately managed systems like private tube wells.

The United Nations’ report in 2018 discloses that 10.8 million people in Nepal do not have access to improved sanitation, and 3.5 million do not have access to basic water services.

Only 25 percent of the water supply in Nepal is fully functioning whereas almost 40 per cent need major repairs. Nepal’s weak water supply system results in meagre sanitation facilities in government schools, hindering the well-being of children in the country.

Bacteria contamination is one of the major reasons why Nepal’s water quality is so low. 71 per cent of all water sources are contaminated with Escherichia coli bacteria. Consuming such water results in stomach cramps, diarrheas, nausea, vomiting, and low-grade fever.

However, the case is even worse for the poor people in the country, as nearly 91 per cent of the water sources they use are contaminated with the Escherichia bacteria.

“Those belonging to poor and excluded groups in rural areas have limited access to safe drinking water supply.” says Niranjan Shrestha the chief environmental officer and founder of Environmental Services Nepal Pvt. Ltd. (ESN).

Environmental Services Nepal Pvt. Ltd. (ESN) provides sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions through conducting research and capacity building projects. ESN has carried out environmental assessment of various drinking water supply projects in Nepal.

 “While implementing drinking water supply projects, it may have some positive and negative environmental impacts and environmental assessment study is necessary for those projects before their implementation so that their negative environmental impacts could be minimised or mitigated.” He adds.

In the southern belt of the country: Terai, populated by the majority of the countries’ population, the major source of drinking water is groundwater. However, millions of people in Terai are in constant risk of consuming arsenic contaminated water. A 2012 study: Arsenic Contamination of Groundwater in Nepal: Good Public Health Intention Gone Bad, reveals that 29 % of tube wells in the Terai region have arsenic concentrations exceeding the WHO standard of 10g/L.

The National Drinking Water Quality Standards, 2062 under the provision of Water Resources Act, 2049, mandates concentration limits of certain chemicals that should not exceed their permissible range.

Table showing government mandates on permissible chemical range in drinking water supply / Nepalnews
Table showing government mandates on permissible chemical range in drinking water supply / Nepalnews

The Government of Nepal requires all water suppliers to follow the provisions of Implementation Directives for National Drinking Water Quality Standards, 2062 for maintaining Drinking Water Quality Parameters. However, the responsibility of monitoring the water quality is given to the water suppliers themselves.

As internal migration to the southern plains of the country continues, studies show that arsenic contamination is becoming a major public health threat risking the lives of an increasing number of people in Nepal.

“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.” Says Shrestha.

“The demand for water is increasing significantly in Nepal and access to safe and adequate drinking water is crucial.” He concludes.


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