By Harsh Mahaseth:
Water is an essential life-sustaining resource that underpins the fabric of human development. Being a renewable resource, water enables all living beings to survive and flourish. However, men, women, and even school-going children have to wait hours in line at the traditional stone water taps for a few buckets to sustain their lives. Such is the grim reality of Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal. With rapidly growing population, improper planning and management, and pollution of nearby rivers, Kathmandu is faced with a severe water crisis. To fulfill their daily water needs, the people have over-exploited underground water reserves, resulting in the sinking of the water table at an alarming rate of 2.5 meters annually.
Water withdrawal from groundwater sources has increased five folds since 1950 and is expected to double in the next decade. If the withdrawal rate of an underground resource exceeds its natural recharge rate, the water table around the withdrawal well would be lowered, creating a water-less volume known as the cone of depression. Any pollution discharged onto the land above will be pulled directly into the cone polluting water in wells and other such reservoirs.
Poor management of water resources and infrastructure is a reason for south Asia to face water scarcity. “There is no shortage of water in the world, but there is a crisis of management of water supplies,” says Asit Bitwas, head of the Third World Centre for Water Management.
Adaptation measures required for reducing vulnerability to changing water regimes at community level are good practice of sustainable development and disaster risk reduction. The challenge lies in getting the people accustomed with the risks that they were unaware of and providing measures that will benefit them. Local watershed management would ensure proper accountability in these communities. Awareness should be raised among the youth and also about the links between climate change and the impacts that it will have on the community.
Rainwater harvesting can ease the desperate situation by contributing significantly towards the fulfillment of the domestic water demand while also reducing the burden on groundwater. However, significant research on rainwater harvesting has not been conducted, and very few have adopted this new process.
In order to obtain recent and reliable information on the situation of water supply and rainwater harvesting in Kathmandu, an elaborate questionnaire was prepared, and a survey was conducted among an economically and socially diverse group of 120 youths from different school in Kathmandu. The survey reflected the desperate situation, showing that 51% of the people were facing an acute water shortage. Though 82% of the people were aware of rainwater harvesting, only 39% of them had implemented it, revealing the need to convince the youth of its feasibility and associated benefits through community projects and demonstration sites. Making the youth aware of such a process expanded their knowledge as well as made them aware of another alternative that could be used. Making the youth aware and also educating them about the implementation and management of rainwater harvesting will lead to desired results.
Thus, rainwater harvesting can become a genuine solution for the water crisis. It is pure enough for all domestic purposes and is simple and inexpensive enough to be considered in the community level as well as the household level. If properly managed and widely implemented, rainwater harvesting could rescue the cities from a serious water crisis and to do this it is essential for the youth to play a role.