Water crisis intensifies

Access to safe drinking water is deteriorating across parts of Nepal, activists say, despite the prevailing monsoon season from May until September.


According to the Federation of Drinking Water and Sanitation Users Nepal, a national network advocating water and sanitation rights, half the country now faces drinking water shortages.


Although a study has yet to be conducted on the current scenario, water experts claim more than 20 districts in both the hills and Terai areas of the country have been badly affected.


“This situation could affect a large number of families who have already been reeling under the immense water shortage situation over the last many years,” Ajaya Dixit, director of the Nepal Water Conservation Foundation told IRIN.  


According to government statistics, more than 4.4 million people in the Himalayan nation do not have regular access to safe drinking water in rural and urban areas, be it via piped water, wells, rainwater or bottled water.


“With water sources drying up, erratic rainfall and poor management of water resources, the problems are worsening every year,” said Prakash Amatya from the NGO Forum for Urban Water and Sanitation.


Public health concerns are increasing as a result. Already, more than 10,500 children die before their fifth birthday from diarrhoea, mainly due to inadequate access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, according to WaterAid. More than 80 percent of diseases are the result of unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation, according to its 2009 report, End Water Poverty campaign journey in Nepal.

Worsening water crisis


Villagers in remote districts such as Dadeldhura, Doti, Surkhet and dozens of others in western Nepal, all more than 500km from the capital, are already suffering, social workers say.


“A lot of people are taking desperate measures by spending more than five hours every day to fetch water from far-off rivers,” said Anju Karki, a healthcare volunteer in Doti.


The government has more than 50,000 healthcare volunteers who work closely with the rural communities and are also a major source of information for NGOs, media and government where there is limited access.