Talking About Water...
Nepal takes the first step of raising awareness on water conservation throughout the entire region.
The Global Peace Association Nepal and Direction Nepal recently organized a three-day water festival in Kathmandu. The festival, titled ‘Water Sustainability for Peace and Security’ was aimed at spreading knowledge and creating public awareness for the sustainable use of water. The festival is the first of its kind in Nepal to emphasise wise consumption consumption of water.
The three-day festival provided information about the use of water and also exhibited new technologies that can enhance proper and controlled use of water. Though Nepal is the second richest country in water resources with a large number of river basins and flowing fresh water,, the popula- tion lacks pure drinking water, with the situation only worsening due to climate change.
Data shows an estimated 8.6 million cubic meters of water flow every year from the Himalayas to the plains and then to the Indian subcontinent, which is enough to support more than a billion people. Glaciers and snowmelts are the only source of fresh wa- ter for the population in Nepal which has around 3,000 glaciers and 2,000 glacial lakes. However, as many as 20 lakes are at risk of bursting. Experts believe that the trend in climate change shows that the continuous decrease in snow accumulation and glacial retreat might lead to acute water shortages in the future.
According to the Department of Water Supply and Sewerage, 42 percent of Nepal’s 27 million population lives below the poverty line. Out of this, only 80 percent has access to drinking water.
However, not all drinking water is safe owing to the mass pollution in the rivers and other water resources. While people in the north travel hours and wait in queues to fetch a bucket of water, those residing in the plains depend largely on groundwater that is severely contaminated due to increased use of chemicals in agricultural practices. Numerous rivers flowing through the urban areas of Nepal contain high amounts of pollution, making them unsuitable as sources for drinking water.
Water is rapidly becoming a scarcity, especially in South Asia. With climate change and an appalling record of water pollution, the region is facing an urgent crisis that does not receive the attention it deserves. Programs like the water festival are therefore very important in the society to raise awareness about water conservation and wise consumption.
Interestingly, the water festival in Nepal attracted the government as well as the private sector, drawing close to 16,000 visitors. Appealing to the civil society, the festival featured students from schools, colleges and universities who participated by dis-
playing their technologies and products for water conservation and efficient usage.
A part of the awareness campaign was to trigger a dialogue over the wide use of water in industries and agriculture. The Water and Energy Consultants’ Association introduced a new technology, Ghatte Bijuli, whereby water is converted to generate electricity. Meanwhile, a group of engineering students have developed a water level indicator -- a device that indicates when the tank is full. As the water level increases, a bulb lights up and an alarm rings, thus preventing water from over-flowing.
Students also showcased homemade water fountains made of recyclable materials such as old CDs, paper, and plastic. When asked about the link between solid waste and water, Narad Bastola, Secretary of the Nepal Rural Development Forum, said, “Solid waste is dumped in the water and causes pollution. Instead of throwing them in sources of water, we can use them to make creative things.” Besides displaying new technologies, stalls also gave out pamphlets and held short presentations describing rainwater harvesting, water treatment, wastewater treatment machines and water purifiers. “I was really curious to know what would be there at the water expo because I had never heard of it before,” quipped Pratima Magar, a Bachelor’s level student and a housewife who was excitedly learning all about rainwater harvesting. “I also want to install such a system in my house,” she said after knowing that she too “could solve the problem of water shortage during the dry season.”
Though the target group was mainly the youth, the organizers were overwhelmed by the response they received from a healthy cross-section of society. Apart from raising public awareness, the organizers were also successful in bringing together stakeholders working in the water sector.
The water festival was a success for Nepal owing to its unique concept, large media coverage, audience response and the number of orders received by the exhibitors. The event has set a benchmark for other South Asian countries to emulate because the entire region faces a looming water crisis which, if unchecked, could soon make water a luxury item.