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No effort to recharge aquifers even as groundwater recedes



Groundwater recharge has been a pressing issue in the Kathmandu Valley since the early 1970s, when the practice of motorized extraction of water from the ground was proliferating.

Thousands of wells have been drilled into shallow and deep aquifers of the valley by now. Groundwater up to 40 meters are called shallow aquifers and those below that level are called deep aquifers.

Several studies have been completed between 1975 and 2005 to determine the capacity of water recharge in the Valley and the possible threats from extensive extraction.

Out of the total 800 million liters of groundwater being extracted in the Valley daily, about 700 million liters is extracted for commercial purposes, say government officials.

There is a demand of 320 million cubic liters of drinking water in the Valley for 3.2 million people. Apart from the 2.6 million Valley residents, more than half million who use water are those who frequently travel to the Valley for various reasons.

The main concern surrounding groundwater extraction is that it also results in the depletion of other water resources.

More than 50 percent of the demand for water is covered by groundwater extraction.

As per a conservative estimate made in 2005, more than 30 percent of the people in the Kathmandu Valley depended on groundwater and the situation is only getting worse, says Shambhu Khanal, an engineer with the Kathmandu Valley Drinking Water Management Board (KVDWMB).

Until the 1990s, people had to dig no more than 20 feet to get groundwater. But today it is difficult to get water even at the depth of 40 feet.

The government passed a groundwater policy in October 2011 that restricts extraction of groundwater below 100 meters without permission from the board. Following the adoption of the policy, the board on December of 2011 geared up to control the increasing trend of groundwater extraction for commercial purposes.

The special committee formed to check such illegal activities raided water extraction sites of five-star hotels such as Hotel Yak and Yeti and Hotel Annapurna and Hotel Malla and fined them Rs 50,000 each.

The committee has also put hundreds of institutions including government ministries, offices, schools, hospitals, mineral water manufacturers and NOGs in the list of wrongdoers, says Dinesh Bista, a board official who led the crusade two years ago. He said that the board even notified embassies about the new provision through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and urged them to acquire license for extraction.

The board has categorized government ministries schools, offices and NGOs as institutional agencies; hotels and hospitals as service agencies; and water manufacturing companies as commercial agencies and has been charging them based on the quantity of water they extract every day.

Similarly, the board has so far forced more than 200 organizations to get permit for extracting groundwater in the last one and half years. The board currently charges Rs 15,000 to Rs 50,000 per year depending on the depth of tube wells.

The 2005 study had found that the groundwater level was receding at an average rate of over four meters annually. A similar study conducted by JICA in 1990 had put the rate at 2.5 meters per year.

According to the board officials, combined extraction by private companies and government agencies stands at around 700 million liters a day at present.

Before the groundwater policy went into effect, out of the total 500 institutions and agencies extracting hundreds of thousands of liters groundwater every day, only 190, including 80 bored wells owned by Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited (KUKL), were legal.

But as per the new groundwater policy, all kinds of groundwater extraction is illegal.

Locals protest groundwater extraction for commercial purposes

Fearing a possibility of water crisis in near future, the locals of Balaju visited the KVDWMB office in Buddhanagar to urge the board to restrict drawing of water by the Balaju Industrial Estate which is said to extract more than 10,000 liters of water every day. The issue was settled after the industry pledged to provide drinking water to all the households in the area every day. Another conflict between the locals and Nepal Life Insurance Company was settled with government mediation.

Engineer Shambhu Khanal, KVDWMB

To prevent further decline in the groundwater level as well as to recharge it, we need to take few urgent steps. One solution could be to identify recharge zones and carry out artificial groundwater recharge.

Past studies have shown that the northern part of the valley have high potential of groundwater recharge.

The rainwater is drained through a number of rivers, streams and rivulets that discharges to the Bagmati River. The study area has covered all the major sub-basins of Bagmati River Basin, namely Bishnumati, Manohara Khola, Dhobi Khola and Nakkhu Khola sub-basins. All the waters flow toward the center of the Valley to join the Bagmati River and eventually drain out from the valley. The Bagmati River Basin occupies an approximate catchments area of 625 km before it flows out of the valley through the Chovar gorge.

The potential areas for artificial groundwater recharge have been identified. These areas lie at the upper reaches of the Bagmati and Manohara Rivers. Likewise, the wells existing in the northern groundwater districts can be used for the groundwater recharge through water injection.

The study delineates the potential areas of artificial groundwater recharge and it should be protected so that it could be utilized in the future. Similarly, additional wells should be drilled for water injection at appropriate locations.

Categorization of ground water recharge capacity in the Valley
Area Status Permission to extract water per second (acc to policy)
North Good 2-15 liters
Center Poor 3-7 liters
South Very poor 2-3 liters
Others – –

Kathmandu District: Gongabu, Dhapashi, Sangla, Nepaltar, Goldhunga, Kavresthali, Manmaiju, Dharmasthali, Tokha, Khadka Bhadrakali, Buddhanilkantha, Chapali, Mahankal, Kapan, Chunikhel, Gokarna, Sundarijal, Mulpani, Gothatar, Nayapati, Thali, Jhormahankal, Ichangunarayan.
Bhaktapur: Bode, Manahara

Kathmandu: Kathmandu Metropolitan City all 35 wards, Sitapaila, Syuchatar, Naikap, Tinthana, Walambu, Machchegaun, Satungal, Matatirtha, Wadbhanjyang
Lalitpur: Kupondole, Jwagal
Bhaktapur: Urban area

Kathmandu: Dachhinkali, Sheshnarayan, Chhaimle
Lalitpur: Rest of the area
Bhaktapur: Rural area of the district

Source: Republica Daily


Published on 2013-03-02 07:00:39

About nirjanasharma

Nepali Journalist.

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