Country Water Actions

Country water actions are stories that showcase water reforms undertaken by individuals, communities, organizations, and governments in Asia-Pacific countries and elsewhere.

Nepal: Water Today, Better Lives Tomorrow
July 2004

Nepal ranks among the poorest countries in Asia. Less than 60% of its rural population has access to safe water, and 20% has access to basic sanitation facilities. The 4 th Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project provided water water to about 40 districts in the far western, midwestern, and eastern development regions of Nepal. Approximately 1,500 simple, gravity-fed water supply systems and 900 low-cost latrines were built throughout the project areas. More than 600,000 people living in poor, remote areas of Nepal benefited from the project. The major benefits included increased water consumption, improved water quality, energy and time savings, and significant health benefits. The reduction in time spent collecting water from distant springs and streams and the energy saved resulted in an improvement in the quality of life and health of women and female children. Read the project completion report. WATER RELIEF As recently as three years ago, arduous would have been an apt term to describe each day for the women of Beltar in the rural district of Jhapa in Nepal. "We wake up at 2:30 in the morning, rush to the community well to haul a full day's supply of water before the well dries up each day, wash clothes, prepare food for our husband and children, and keep house," says Januka Shivakoti, one of the many women of Beltar. These days, Ms. Shivakoti and her neighbors sleep in, taking comfort in the fact that piped water now comes to their homes from two new holding tanks fed by a natural spring on the edge of the village. The piped water, which comes from a gravity-powered distribution system that supplies 375 private taps and 75 community taps in the area, has radically changed village lives for the better. Water quality has improved, leading to savings on chemicals used previously to treat well water. Improvements in water quality have also cut down gastrointentinal infections and by 75%, says Yogendra Acharya, Chairperson of the Beltar Drinking Water and Sanitation User Committee.

Savings in terms of time and energy spent collecting water from distant wells, springs or streams were also significant, leaving household members free to pursue livelihood or educational activities. Economic savings from the increased accessibility of water have also been considerable. Many households used to spend about 180 Nepali rupees ($2.50) a month on a replacement bucket and rope to haul water. Now, owners of private taps pay 25 Nepali rupees ($0.35) for 8,000 liters of water. Beltar's success is just one of the many success stories resulting from the implementation of ADB's 4 th Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Project in Nepal. AIMING FOR WATER SANITATION FOR THE RURAL POOR Nepal ranks among the poorest countries in the Asia and Pacific region, and inadequate access to safe water supply and sanitation facilities is a key contributor to this situation. Less than 60% of its rural population has access to safe water and less than 20% has access to basic sanitation facilities. Rural water supply and sanitation features prominently in the national government's plans and priorities. Its Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Plan for 1991-2000 worked towards providing water supply services to 75% of the populace, and sanitation services to 25%, by 2000. Subsequent plans and directives also called for increasing the participation of communities and NGOs in interventions designed to give the rural populace access to water and sanitation. Nepal's far western, midwestern and eastern development regions, where the ADB-funded 4th Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project was implemented, are among the most economically backward, remote and geographically disadvantaged areas in the country. Distant wells, springs and streams are the main sources of drinking water. Health conditions are poor, and the incidence of waterborne diseases such as diarrhea is high. THE PROJECT The 4 th Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project set for itself ambitious targets. Covering 300 subprojects in 40 rural districts in the far western, midwestern, and eastern development regions of Nepal, the project aimed to:

Design and construct 1,500 simple, gravity-fed piped water supply systems Construct 900 low-cost institutional latrines in schools and health posts Promote hygiene education in the communities through staff of the Department of Water Supply and Sewerage (DWSS), the implementing agency Promote the change in DWSS' role from implementor to facilitator of water supply schemes through intensive staff training at all levels Strengthen the capacity of water user committees (WUCs) to undertake operation and maintenance (O&M) of completed subprojects ADB provided a loan of $20 million to cover 75% of the project costs and the Government of Nepal contributed 13%. The loan took effect at the start of 1997 and was closed in June 2002. INTRODUCING INNOVATIONS The project built on the experiences of three previous ADBfunded Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Projects in Nepal. A key lesson learned from these projects was that approaches to rural water supply should be communitybased, with active community participation from the beginning and central government agencies playing more of a facilitator's role. As such, implementation of the project in each of the 300 subprojects required the establishment of WUCs, which then participated in designing, constructing, operating and maintaining water supply subprojects. Once the subprojects were completed, the communities assumed responsibility for operating and maintaining water supply systems. From an early stage, beneficiaries learned about their obligations and duties, and contributed up to 18% of the construction costs, mostly through labor and materials. Each household also had to pay a small monthly fee to cover the salaries of village maintenance workers, minor repair costs, and administrative costs of the WUCs. One of the most important elements of the project was a community education and awareness program, conducted by DWSS staff with the support of local consultants and NGOs. Rural communities, particularly women's groups, WUCs, children, teachers, and health post workers learned the importance of proper hygiene, health, and water use. Local communities were encouraged to build and use lowcost latrines. ENJOYING THE GAINS More than 670,000 people living in poor, remote areas of Nepal (even higher than the 600,000 originally targeted!) benefited from the project. The major benefits include increased water consumption, improved water quality, energy and time savings, and significant health benefits.

The project targeted the construction of 300 water supply subprojects and 900 low cost institutional latrines. By June 2002, 320 water supply subprojects and 1,277 institutional latrines, not to mention 33,000 private latrines, were completed. Of the water supply subprojects, only 22 so far were generating adequate revenues to meet their O&M costs (some at breakeven and others at revenue surplus) but the rest are working towards this end. With improved water quality and accessibility, water consumption increased from an average of 15-20 liters per capita per day (lpcd) to 40-50 lpcd. This allowed for better hygiene practices, which in turn led to lower incidences of waterborne diseases (diarrhea, typhoid and cholera), eye infections and skin diseases. The reduction in time spent collecting water from distant springs and streams and the energy saved have also resulted in improved quality of life and health for the women and female children. As Raju Tuladjar, Senior Economic Officer at ADB's Nepal Resident Mission, says "Water availability and quality have improved the community, and this has disproportionally benefited women and children who bore the brunt of the difficulties of fetching water and spending hours to get water." NOT OUT OF THE WOODS YET Despite its gains, the project is not without some frustrations. The escalation of insurgency in rural areas has delayed the completion and turn-over of some of the subprojects. Even with the community-based design of the project, DWSS still played a major role in implementing subproject activities, e.g., civil works, supplies procurement, etc. To a certain extent, this compromised the abilities of WUCs to participate and make decisions regarding their subprojects. Also, although the project intended to benefit the women in local communities, there weren't enough measures to promote their active participation. For example, the requirement was to appoint at least two women members to WUCs (generally comprising 8-10 members), but no specific measures ensured that women members filled key decisionmaking positions. The results were that many WUCs had only two women members at the most, and no WUCs had women in key decision-making positions. The social preparation activities, including awareness campaigns and the training of communities in subproject planning, management, and O&M, could be enhanced. At the moment, beneficiary communities in many project areas still have low capacity and awareness, and beneficiaries tend to continue to depend on the Government for O&M. Finally, DWSS has only taken the initial steps towards a more participatory approach to project implementation and there is still much room for improvement. Another ongoing ADB project, the Community-Based Water Supply and Sanitation in Nepal, is facilitating DWSS' shift from project implementor to policy maker/project facilitator.

LESSONS LEARNED The decision-making process for projects needs to be embedded in the beneficiary communities. If the communities do not make project decisions, their ownership of the project facilities will be weak, jeopardizing sustainability. The community must be mobilized to contribute project costs. This will strengthen ownership and provide incentives to the communities, the key stakeholders, to seek ways to reduce costs and increase efficiency. Community capacity building should be closely linked to the more tangible project activities and results to sustain the community's active participation. The "software" component of a project is as important as its "hardware" component. Community information, awareness campaigns and education, particularly of women, must be given enough emphasis as well as financial and other support. These efforts need to precede construction activities. Monitoring and evaluation needs to be strengthened so that projects are implemented as designed, midcourse corrective actions can be taken, and intended project benefits are achieved. Benefits in the water sector can be obtained only if sanitation and hygiene education are addressed in an integrated manner. Whatever its limitation may be, the 4 th Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project has effectively eased some major water burdens previously borne by the rural poor in Nepal.

REFERENCES Kruger, David. "Water Burdens Eased." ADB Review. Vol. 35, No. 4, July- August 2003. Project Completion Report on the 4th Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Project in Nepal (Loan 1464- NEP), June 2004. "Community Participation Helps Bring Water to Remote Parts of Nepal." Bringing Water to the Poor: Selected ADB Case Studies. Water for All Series # 8, pp. 23-26

____________________________ *This article was first published online at ADB's Water for All website in July 2004: The Country Water Action series was developed to showcase reforms and good practices in the water sector undertaken by ADB’s member countries. It offers a mix of experience and insights from projects funded by ADB and those undertaken directly by civil society, local governments, the private sector, media, and the academe. The Country Water Actions are regularly featured in ADB’s Water for All News, which covers water sector developments in the Asia and Pacific region.