Nepal is one of the least developed countries in the world with more than one-quarter of the population living below the poverty line. Poor water quality in Nepal has also prevailed for the past 30 years. For example, residents of the Kathmandu Valley encounter significant challenges concerning water quality as they rely on tube wells, dug wells and stone spouts for their drinking water. A recent survey conducted within the valley revealed that approximately 51% of all water sources had a pH level lower than 6.5. The supply of water remains inadequate, unreliable and of substandard quality, even within Nepal’s capital city. The compromised quality of drinking water presents numerous health risks, particularly in conjunction with the impact of climate change, which contributes to the prevalence of water- and vector-borne diseases, thus affecting human well-being.
How Water Quality in Nepal Impacted Poverty
Those who are poor in the rural areas of Nepal have little to no access to water. Some even have to depend on streams of water from nearby mountains, and they have to travel long distances to retrieve the water.
Despite this access to mountain water, it is not always a safe bet. For example, domestic waste and untreated sewage discharge from nearby neighborhoods and villages pollute the surface water from the Kathmandu Valley. Due to the increasing population of Kathmandu, it produces 150 tons of waste per day and dumps about 75 tons of this waste into rivers. This is a problem because households induce more than 80% of this wastewater.
The high levels of poverty in Nepal have heavily impacted the farmers in which many farmers are unable to invest in better farming techniques. Farmers also lack access to formal finance and food security.
How Water Quality in Nepal Impacted Nepalese Livelihood
The lack of access to clean and healthy water directly impacts the health and sanitation conditions of many Nepalese people. For example, Ranjana Adhikari, a Nepalese assistant in a community health post, discussed in 2016 how Nepal’s poor water quality specifically affects women. She reported that the women who have to go long distances to retrieve water for their families normally have poorer health than those who do not need to travel long distances.
Additionally, in 2016, doctors reported that there were water-borne diseases that stemmed from contaminated waters and poor hygiene. Unfortunately, the number of cases of Nepalese people suffering from diarrhea, typhoid and fever due to Kathmandu’s poor water quality increased between 25% and 30% that same year.
In November of 2022, the Global Center on Adaptation reported that the Community Development and Advocacy Forum Nepal implemented measures to recover lands, preserve waters and manage river systems. Some of these measures include “taking an ecosystem approach,” where it made improvements to prevent soil erosion, improve access to water and turn dry riverbanks into green areas with various fruits and vegetables.
Moreover, the Ministry of Water Supply instituted the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund’s (UNICEF) WASH program. This program aims to help create better access to safe water, improve health care facilities and sanitation, raise hygiene awareness and much more.
Also, in July 2022, the government of Nepal and the World Bank collaborated with $80 million to promote water resources management and to implement the Water Sector Governance and Infrastructure Support Project.
According to Mr. Faris Hadad-Zervos, the World Bank Country Director for Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, the Water Sector Governance and Infrastructure Support Project aims to improve the delivery of water and sanitation services while also discussing the significant gaps in Nepal’s water and sanitation infrastructure and economic progress.
Nepal is taking action to tackle its water quality challenges head-on. Collaborative projects between the government, organizations like the Global Center on Adaptation and UNICEF and the World Bank are already making a difference. Measures to recover lands, preserve waters and manage river systems are being implemented, while initiatives are underway to improve access to safe water, enhance sanitation facilities and raise hygiene awareness. These efforts are transforming the lives of Nepalese communities, safeguarding their health and contributing to sustainable development.
– Merlis Burgos-Ramos