Citizens must be taught to decrease water use wherever they can, in industry, agriculture or in the household, if we are to avert a water crisis in the future

For a country that prides itself in its vast water resources, the perennial shortage of drinking water faced by its citizens in both the urban and rural areas makes a mockery of the rich natural resource. Nepal ranks 40th in terms of water stress among 189 countries of the world, as per the latest Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas of the Water Resources Institute. And in the South Asian region, Nepal is the fourth-most water-stressed country, behind India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The level of water stress is not uniform across the country, ranging from extremely high in western Nepal to high in the mid-western and central regions to medium to high in the eastern and far-western regions. The pressure to meet the household demand for water on a daily basis has been on-going for ages – both in the urban and rural areas – yet neither the government nor the concerned authorities have taken up the issue seriously. The number of time households spend on meeting the bare minimum daily need of water, the resources that go into it and the mental strain on members of the family truly make water stress a very big problem, but it has failed to draw the attention it deserves.

One of the reasons behind the water crisis in the cities is due to the haphazard urbanisation taking place, without any thought given to managing water resources to meet the growing demand for it. And in the rural areas, deforestation has pushed an available water source further from a settlement, requiring villagers to walk miles on end to fetch a vessel of water. Quite unlike countries of North Africa and the Middle East, the water problem in Nepal is largely one caused by the inability to manage our resource. Although thousands of rivers and streams run though the country, from east to west, the water resource cannot become a usable commodity unless it is harnessed properly. In the absence of good planning and funds, the country’s huge water resource is going to waste. We have neither been able to generate enough electricity from it, nor use it for agriculture and industry, nor for drinking water.

Water stress is likely to grow worse in the near future unless we act now. As Nepal strives to become a middle-income state in the near future, there will be more and more pressure on water resources for industrialisation, expanding irrigation facilities and tourism, among others. And with the increasing population and economic growth, demand for clean drinking water will only increase. On the other hand, climate change could alter water yield, making water shortage even more severe in the future. There is, thus, a need to conserve the existing water resources and make prudent use of them. Since groundwater supplies more than half of Kathmandu’s water needs, it is necessary to recharge it to replenish the groundwater level. Rainwater harvesting is already practised in both cities and villages, and meets a good deal of their water needs when the taps run dry. Recycling and reusing waste water are other ways to conserve water. Citizens must be taught to decrease water use wherever they can – in industry, agriculture or in the household – if we are to avert a water crisis in the future.

Less paddy plantation

Paddy plantation has so far been completed on 86 per cent of the total 1.37 hectares of arable land across the country, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development. This is, however, 3.62 percentage points less than the same period of the last fiscal. Delayed arrival of the monsoon by almost one month was the main reason behind the decline in the paddy plantation. Most of the arable land in the country is heavily dependent on the monsoon rains. Even most parts of the Tarai region lack round-the-year irrigation facility, resulting in low productivity of the major cereal.

The ministry said paddy plantation had been carried out on 1.18 million hectares of land by Saturday. Paddy production alone has more than 20 per cent contribution to the total agriculture production of the country, while the entire agriculture sector has around 27 per cent contribution to the gross domestic product. In order to give a boost to the agriculture sector, the government must make huge investments in irrigation projects, especially in the plains, where the bulk of the paddy is grown. The country had a bumper paddy harvest last year due to timely arrival of the monsoon and adequate rainfall.