Nepal | June 20, 2019

EDITORIAL: Harvesting rainwater

The Himalayan Times

All households should be required to harvest rainwater. The government should also build small-scale reservoirs in the surrounding hills of the Valley

Water shortage is a pressing problem in many areas including the capital city. Necessity has made people stand in long queues to acquire water from tankers and wells in many parts of the city. However, the solution to this plight appears to be possible if we are to go by recent reports in the media. Even in the dry season when the demand for water is more the residents of Chyasal in Lalitpur have enough water after the implementation of Rain Water Harvesting and Water Recharge Project. This project was launched by the Urban Environment Management Society (UEMS) in April 2007. This body was established in 2002 to deal with issues related to sanitation and water. The Chyasal residents faced severe scarcity of water after the traditional stone spouts and wells dried up with no alternative source of water. However, the UEMS came up with a viable plan and as an experiment it set up a 5,000-litre capacity collection tank, two bio-sand filters and 3,000-litre distribution tanks by digging two wells. Now the UEMS provides 10,000 litres of water per day to 319 households even in dry season.

If this project was carried out on a larger scale then it would be possible to end water woes of the Valley to a significant extent with Chyasal serving as a role model. Taking a cue from this success, the UEMS should go ahead with rehabilitation of traditionally-dug wells and recharge them. It should install water bottling plants and water treatment facilities for iron, bio-sand filters which should of course be affordable to the general people. Because of the recharge cycle, over 60 per cent of the Rain Water Harvesting and Recharge systems are still working. As this is a viable alternative that works it would be wise to expand it further. However, a matter of serious concern is that many residents are resorting to digging for bored water. This should be properly managed as even houses built in small land have opted to dig for bored water as a result of which the water table in the Valley has gone down by ten metres.

Meanwhile, the Melamchi Drinking Water Project was mooted in the late 1990s, but the project started only after 2010 after the agreement was signed with donor agencies. The project would be able to supply 510 million liters of water per day to the Valley from Melamchi, Yangri, and Larke Rivers of Sindhupalchowk district. But even after three extensions of the deadline for the completion of the project, even the present deadline of October 2017 will probably be unmet due to, among other things, the earthquake of 2015 and delay in digging the tunnel. With the ever-increasing demand for water, even the Melamchi project will not be able to fully meet the demand for a long time. It is therefore necessary to make it mandatory that all households harvest rainwater. At the same time, the government should build small-scale reservoirs in the surrounding hills of the Valley. Doing so will not only help supply drinking water for the growing population in the future but also help conserve environment, forestry and wildlife. Therefore, the rainwater harvesting scheme must get priority of all municipalities across the country.

Fighting rabies

Rabies is a disease which if not prevented through vaccination of animals or treated immediately after bites by infected animals will kill people. It is transmitted via the saliva of infected animals and hits the brain. Dogs and monkeys are the major agents of transmission. Dogs alone, both stray and domesticated, are reported to transmit 96 percent of rabies in the country. Individual and government agencies should focus on prevention which is better than cure, and also keep ready all the tools and the medicines necessary to treat an attacked person.

The attacked person should thoroughly wash the affected area with soap and water to get rid of the saliva, apply an antiseptic, and then seek immediate medical consultation. It is best to avoid animal bites. Vaccination of dogs and other pets is equally necessary. Anti-rabies vaccine must be kept available in all hospitals and health centres. But this is not often the case. To take a current example, anti-rabies vaccine is in short supply in Saptari. Deaths due to the lack of timely medication occur from time to time. In areas where snakes abound, anti-venom injections should also be easily available. But this is also, unfortunately, not often the case.

A version of this article appears in print on February 28, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.

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