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Conflict brewing over shrinking water resources


LALITPUR, Jan 25: Dried up canals, dense bushes encroaching upon reservoirs that aided ground-water recharge, and the ubiquitous sightings of water pipes and taps around the village bespeak the place´s rich history in terms of the availability of water resources. 

Lack of water, however, has rendered the entire water infrastructure of Bisankhunarayan VDC of Lalitpur district useless. “The water from recharging wells was sufficient for washing clothes and for household use just 12 years ago,” said Deep Bahadur Karki, 76, who has spent his entire life in the area. 
Though the wells were drying up gradually and traditional source of water like stone spouts and reservoirs were vanishing slowly, the locals did not pay much attention, Karki explained pointing toward the bank of Dhamile Khola. 

Karki, 76, a resident of Kitachaur recalls that the ancient well built at the bank of Dhamile Khola was sufficient to quench the thirst of all villagers. But the well became almost useless since 2002.
Over the past six years, 22 stone spouts in Bisankhunarayan VDC, located south-east of the Godavari Botanical Garden, have stopped discharging water. 
As the water source in his area dried up, Raju Khatri, an office assistant at the VDC office, was forced to reach Rachantar-9 from Kitachaur-1 carrying kettle to fetch water so that he could prepare tea for his superiors at the office.

“Rachnatar´s water tap could be reached in 15 minutes from the VDC office,” said 33 years old Khatri, who has been serving at the office for seven years. 
While the locals show no interest in consulting experts to establish the cause behind the drying up of the water sources, the place has been receiving rainfall less than the previous year since 2008, said Karki. 

Situated at just two kilometers from the blacktopped road of Taukhel near Godavari VDC, rainfall in Kitachaur was as frequent as in Godavari. 
Damodar Rijal, VDC secretary, pointed out some of the reasons behind the rapidly disappearing water sources. “Though it´s hard to give a concrete reason, rapid expansion of settlements and haphazard road construction seem to be contributing to the decline,” mentioned Rijal, who was posted here just a month ago. He also speculated that the water recharge zones of the area might have been unknowingly exploited while forming new settlements and road construction.

“A proper survey seems to be lacking in the area during road construction, which affected the water recharge capacity in the VDC,” he stated.
Due to its geographical structure and the dense forest around, Godavari receives rainfall almost every day in any season. However, the water origins of Maandanda, Bistachhap, Patlechhap, Kitachaur, Sotikuwa, Kotdaanda and Dolbhangeri of Bisankhu dried up so rapidly that the villagers are now somehow meeting their demands by blocking the streams and rivers flowing to other VDCs across their locality.

Water shortage hits fish research 

Following an acute shortage of water, the locals resorted to blocking the water source flowing across the villages toward the Fisheries Research Development (FRD) in Godavari.
The shortage of water gripped the neighboring Bisankhuunarayan VDC in such a way that the crisis is having a direct impact on the functioning of the government-owned FRD. 
While the government officials assume that the locals are not cooperating because they could not get trout fish grown at FRD at low prices, the only thing that concerns the local is availability of drinking water.

“Is rearing fish more important than getting drinking water?” questioned Hari Krishna Bista, a resident of Bistachhap. 
As a result, around 970 households of Maandanda, Bistachhap, Patlechhap, Kitachaur, Sotikuwa and Dolbhangeri complained at the VDC office that at a time when they were facing water crisis, the fish farm was using all water resources in the area in a freewheeling manner.

Bista, who is also in the consumers´ committee of the VDC, said that the committee decided to divert water sources from the FRD after the locals were forced to go to other villages in search of drinking water.

Today, all the villages have separate consumers´ committees to ensure drinking water from the same source. However, the available sources have now again become inadequate for 110 households of Kotdaanda, where most of the residents belong to ethnic communities.
“The consumers´ committee initially provided tap water every two days, which has now been reduced to only two hours a week,” said Bista, adding, “We have to pay to the committee Rs 100 per month but whatever we have been receiving is not sufficient.”

Though the locals had been initially cooperating with the FRD, which is under the National Agricultural Research Council (NARC), an apex body for agricultural research in the country, the situation turned worse for the office in 2008 when the villagers decided to block all water resources flowing naturally across the villages in the area. The research work and trainings for the farmers on fish farming have declined to the lowest since the date of its establishment.

Introducing fresh water species of fish in Nepal by bringing the trout fry from Japan for the first time in 1988, the government had aimed to expand FRD´s area gradually. The officials who saw the enthusiasm surrounding the works done by the office felt that it was going to last forever. However, the worsening water availability has sharply dropped the trout fish production. In between 1999 to 2008, the division not only met the demand of fry for farmers of several districts but also supplied rainbow trout and other local species to the markets. 

“People used to line-up to buy the rainbow trout that gained market within a short time,” mentioned Suresh Wagle, FRD´s director general. “Though we still bring a few thousand trout fry that is ready to be eaten in a year or 14 months, only few hundred survive and reach the market during the dry season,” said Wagle. Cold and clean water best suits the trout fish, which is also known as fresh water fish. After several rounds of meeting with locals proved futile, the FRD has now lost hope of getting back the water from locals.



Source: Republica


Published on 2014-01-26 03:21:52

About nirjanasharma

Nepali Journalist.

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