Recharging Springs and Ponds in the Mid-hills

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Barbotko Pokhari, local labor contribution

Officials from Dapcha Kashikhanda Municipality in Kavre District have integrated the construction of recharge ponds into next year’s ward and VDC plans as a result of research conducted by the Nepal Water Conservation Foundation (NWCF), a partner of the Koshi Basin Programme working to understand the relationship between springs and ponds in Nepal’s middle hills. Dapcha Kashikhanda and its surrounding localities have been facing increasingly dry springs in recent years, and the expectation is that these ponds will help to replenish local springs and improve the communities’ access to water. 

The two-year study found that traditional ponds that existed in the past above the springs played an important role in sustaining the springs below. This fact, however, was not readily understood, and many such ponds either dried up or were used for other purposes, like building houses and other infrastructure. During research work, some ponds were reconstructed with voluntary labor contribution from the local people under technical supervision. The following monsoon, the ponds were filled with water, and a number of springs below increased their flow and duration from years prior. A few long-dried-up springs were also revived. 

Impressed by this positive result, some in the community dug recharge ponds in their own private land. Although the result of the action research was very promising, it was soon realised that it was not possible to replicate on a large scale with the sponsoring research organisations’ limited resources. To be implemented on a wide scale, it needed to be owned by the community and the government. ICIMOD and NWCF have continued their partnership to encourage the municipality- and district-level planners to include the recharge pond construction activities into their regular annual and periodic plans.

To initiate, a one-day introductory workshop was organised 2 December 2015 in Bhakundebesi, near the main office of the newly-declared Dapcha Kashikhanda Municipality. Workshop participants included local leaders of Daraune Pokhari, Chhatrebajh, and Purano Gaun settlements of the Municipality and Shyampati VDC; collaborators in action research in Daraune Pokhari; planning officers from the Municipality and the District Development Committee (DDC), Kavre; and local FM radio station representatives. In the first half of the program, participants were informed by ICIMOD and NWCF experts about past and on-going project activities and future plans. Local people of Daraune Pokhari who had participated in activities also shared their experiences. In the second half of the program, the local people expressed their views, following which, the officials from the municipality and the VDC expressed their opinions and pledged their full support to the program. 

Following the meeting, all wards of the municipality and Shyampati VDC convened their municipality and ward council meetings to identify projects and programs to be implemented in their respective areas and prepare detailed technical and financial plans for approval. NWCF research associates provided technical support to all councils in plan preparation related to local water management and recharge pond construction. As a result of the exercises, all ward and VDC councils identified many recharge ponds for construction or rehabilitation and several springs to be protected during the coming fiscal year. In Daraune Pokhari, the council identified eight different projects ranging in cost from NPR 50,000 to 200,000 to be included in the next year’s plan. The newly-included settlement of Purano Gaun identified five different projects for recharge pond construction and spring protection. Similarly, Shyampati VDC and other settlements identified a number of projects to be implemented in their respective areas. Since these projects were identified as high priority by the community, ward and VDC councils, they have a high chance of being approved by district level authorities in the coming fiscal year.