A Commitment to Implement Water Use Master Plans in Saptari, Nepal

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Two rural municipalities adjoining the Mahuli catchment in Saptari district have committed to implementing water use master plans (WUMPs). Small-scale schemes will be implemented at the ward level, medium-scale schemes at the rural municipality level, and bigger ones such as flood prevention at the provincial and national levels. These commitments followed a WUMP orientation and dissemination workshop organized by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) on 21 June 2018. The workshop succeeded in strengthening linkages between local bodies and key governmental line agencies such as the Department of Irrigation, District Forest Office, District Soil Conservation and Watershed Management Office, and the private sector. 

Participation of the private sector has opened up avenues for joint collaboration with local authorities for sustainable WUMP schemes and facilitated establishment of a WUMP implementation network with local authorities, government and non-government agencies. Key private sector bodies include Lucin Drop access to safe drinking water, NMB Bank access to finance, and Barsha Pump solar-irrigation equipment. All stakeholders have acknowledged that the role of the private sector is crucial to the sustainability of implemented schemes. Through the workshop and associated field visit to the Mahuli irrigation scheme area, participants exchanged WUMP-specific information and experiences, and deliberated on strengthening water use and management in the district through multi-stakeholder partnerships.

This outcome is the result of longstanding efforts. Prior to the transition to Nepal’s new federal structure in 2017, the Saptari District Development Committee had included the WUMP approach in its four-year district periodic plan, and the municipalities (then four VDCs) had allocated five percent of their budget to select water management activities. The workshop oriented newly elected local level authorities and line agencies to the WUMP process and prioritized schemes and discussed implementation possibilities. 

Since 2014, HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation and ICIMOD have supported local efforts to develop WUMPs through technical inputs, capacity building, and access to customized scientific information. Developed through a rigorous and comprehensive process with full ownership of local communities, WUMPs emphasize equitable distribution of water, including to the marginalized, and have caught the attention of elected local leaders in other catchments in Saptari and elsewhere in the Koshi River basin.  

At the workshop, chairperson of Modi Gaupalika in Parbat district, Prem Poudel, shared his experience of implementing WUMP schemes over the course of two decades by mobilizing government funds and through multi-stakeholder partnerships. Over 55 participants representing local, district, and national level authorities, the private sector, local communities and leaders, and media participated in the work-shop. The event was supported by the Mahuli Community Development Centre, a local NGO, and HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation.