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Water articles are written by ADB staff and external contributors on various water issues, reforms, and good practices.

Nepal Water Burdens Eased
ADB’s “Water For All” policy provides a comprehensive framework to address water within a holistic vision By David Kruger BACKGROUND BELTAR, JHAPA DISTRICT, NEPAL For years, as the dry season scorched eastern Nepal each April and May, Januka Shivakoti’s day started in the middle of the night. With the other women of Beltar, she headed to the 20-meter deep community well at about 2:30 a.m. each day to haul water for her family. A full day’s supply had to be in place by early morning because the well went dry each afternoon. “We had to wash clothes and prepare food for the children, so we had to get up that early to collect water,” says Ms. Shivakoti. This year, Ms. Shivakoti and her neighbors are sleeping in. They now have a steady supply of piped water for 6 hours a day from two new holding tanks fed by a natural spring on the edge of the village.
CHILD'S PLAY Fetching The simple gravity-powered distribution system supplies 375 private taps water has never been easier and 75 community taps in the area. Its construction was funded largely in Beltar through the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Fourth Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project. A $20 million loan from ADB’s Asian Development Fund—a lending window for Asia’s least developed member countries—has helped some 1,250 rural communities in 40 districts across Nepal gain easier access to better quality water.

Yogendra Acharya, Chairperson of the Beltar Drinking Water and Sanitation User Committee, says improvements in water quality have cut gastrointestinal infections in Beltar by 75%.

Each family used to have to designate one member to pull water

“There was a big problem with the lack of water in this area before so the people were very supportive and enthusiastic about the project,” Mr. Giri says. “This used to be considered a dirty settlement, but not anymore.” CONCRETE HOMES POPULAR The new water system, along with the recent introduction of electricity and a rough dirt road through separate assistance programs, has turned Beltar into a unique Nepali village—one that is attracting new residents rather than losing them to bigger towns and cities. When planning for the water project started in 1998, Beltar had a population of 5,300, and it was estimated the population would double in about 20 years. But Mr. Acharya says the area is already home to over 9,000 people and the new services are still attracting families from surrounding areas. One of the big draws, he says, is concrete homes. When the area depended on well water, it was very difficult to gather enough water to mix the volume of concrete needed for a house, says Mr. Acharya. As a result, families lived in thatch and mud homes common throughout rural eastern Nepal. But since the new, secure water supply became available, over 100 concrete homes have been built in Beltar. “These cement homes have given the village a reputation as a very developed area,” says Mr. Acharya. The Beltar water committee, which is responsible for running and maintaining the water system, is now looking into ways to expand coverage. It recently completed a survey of the village and is planning to bring water to more homes and extend the hours of availability. As Beltar moves forward, says Mr. Giri, backbreaking hours at the side of a well are a thing of the past.

“Water availability and quality have improved in these communities,” says Raju Tuladhar, Senior Economics Officer at ADB’s Nepal Resident Mission. “This has disproportionately benefited women and children, who bore the brunt of the difficulties of fetching water and spending hours to get water.” NEW SYSTEM FREES UP LABOR In Beltar, the new taps have changed life for good, says Prem Giri, former chairman of the Khudunabari Village Development Committee, which includes Beltar. Each family used to have to designate one member to pull water, Mr. Giri says. With the wells so deep and supply so scarce, it was a full-time job, taking able hands off the farms that provide food and income for most families in the area. The economic benefits of the new system extend beyond freeing up labor. Mr. Giri says many households used to spend about 180 Nepali rupees ($2.30) a month on a replacement bucket and rope to haul water. Now, owners of private taps pay 25 Nepali rupees ($0.32) for 8,000 liters of water. Greater usage incurs greater fees. There have also been savings on medicines and the chemicals used in the past to treat well water. Worm infestation, scabies, typhoid, and waterborne diseases were prevalent in Beltar when well water was used, with medicines costing the average household about 500 Nepali rupees ($6.50) a year.

_______________________________ *This article was first published online at ADB's Water for All website in 2003: http://www.adb.org/Documents/Periodicals/ADB_Review/2003/vol35_4/water_burdens_NEP.asp.