At first blush, the 3.5 per cent of Kathmandu Valley population that depends on traditional
water sources like stone spouts seems negligible as compared to the 79 per cent getting piped water.
In absolute number, the figure equates to 14 lakh people. But unplanned housing and rapid urbanisation are posing as serious challenges to the preservation of these ancient sources. Deep-water sources are dwindling fast, which in turn has resulted in countless stone spouts running dry or below their full capacity. As per a survey of NGO Forum for Urban Water and Sanitation, 67 stone spouts in the Valley are non-functional and 47 have already disappeared.
The Department of Archeology (DoE), the government body responsible for conservation of ancient heritage, simply shrugs off the criticism that they are not doing enough. They cannot do anything unless the locals approach them, is their tailor-made answer. One would have thought that the fact that only 248 of the 406 stone spouts in the Valley are naturally functional was enough to send the alarm bells ringing. Thankfully, enterprising local folks in areas like Alko Hiti in Ikkachhen, Lalitpur, have taken the initiative for conservation and optimal use of sprouts. But it is only through active and collective effort of both the government and common people that these traditional sources of water can be kept flowing.