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For the people of Bhimeswar in the Koshi basin of Nepal’s hilly Sindhuli district, the winter harvest season began with some good news. The Village Development Committee (VDC) announced that a portion of local government budget would be allocated for implementing key activities outlined in their Water Use Master Plan (WUMP). Three other Sindhuli VDCs – Ratanchura, Jalkanya and Baseshwor – also made similar financial commitments.
Used to promote gender and social equity in water resource management, WUMPs are locally prepared plans with five-year outlook strategy to insure equitable water management, especially for women and the poor. Since 2014, ICIMOD’s Koshi Basin Programme (KBP) and HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation have been conducting action research to develop the WUMP concept in the Koshi basin at the VDC level in Sindhuli, Sindhupalchowk and Saptari districts.
The initiative, supported by Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) through its Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio (SDIP), has helped to develop local capacity to create and execute water use plans to benefit over 12,000 households of 12 VDC in all three districts. The VDC representatives work side by side with the communities to develop and support WUMP activities.
The recent financial commitments in Sindhuli were made during the ‘WUMP-VDC Planning’ workshops, held from 7-11 November, and organised by KBP and HELVETAS in partnership with local organisations. The workshops provided a forum for the communities and VDC members to interact with researchers to provide feedback for the WUMP report draft.
The report is key for advancing their plans, and the communities will be the ones who strategise, propose schemes and programmes, and ultimately, implement the plans. The financial commitments signify that the WUMP initiatives are gaining momentum in places like Sindhuli.
Over 160 community members, local NGOs and officials from the VDCs attended the WUMP workshop where women and people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds formed a core part of the meeting. The participants actively interacted by thoroughly discussing the research reports and cross-check facts provided by the researchers. Every community member had an opportunity to provide input to ensure the report was accurate and practical to their local realities.
The researchers also used the workshop to learn the local perceptions and challenges facing more equitable water distribution. Participants indicated they are highly eager to learn what is determined by the new report and expressed hope that ICIMOD and HELVETAS will continue support of WUMP programmes in the district.
WUMPs used to focus on water planning at the VDC level, but now use a river basin approach, accounting for upstream and downstream users. For example, in the case of Sindhuli district, the local WUMPs will be include the Adherikhola catchment further upstream to ensure that upstream and downstream communities work together.
The upstream-downstream linkages are not just about water-sharing but also about collaborating on managing resources, which means that downstream communities can help provide incentives through Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES). Such collaboration can be achieved through the WUMP initiative. Each VDC has realized the need for establishing a watershed-level platform to discuss water issues.
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