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3 Jun 2016 | Water

Kailash Sacred Landscape Initiative Addresses Water Worries Across the Region

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‘We prefer to wait for water at the springs over attending meetings’, said a woman of Digtoli village, around 41 km from the main town of Pithoragarh, India.

As summer temperatures soar across the Himalayan region, the need for water for local communities and wildlife increases, but due to lack of rain and snowfall in winter, scarce resources are further pressed. The demand for water is felt across the Himalayan region, particularly in the Western Himalayas.

According to locals, there has been a steady decline in water over the past dedcade. Some water sources, whether springs or streams, have completely dried up, while others have shown a decline in water quantity and also availability pattern throughout the year. Limited government water supplies cannot fulfill the demand. This water crisis affects the entire region, particularly women and children.

In families where men have migrated in search of work, women are over burdened with water collection duties along with other household chores. Some walk two or more kilometres every day for water. Worsening the situation, long queues at the springs force them to wait sometimes two or more hours. Children collect water after school leaving them with little time to play or study.

Water scarcity results in crop failure further affecting food security and income generation for many households. ‘Whole days we are busy fetching water. We do not have time even to collect fodder. Had there been enough water, we would grow vegetables and have time for other productive work’, said a woman in Seem village.

Around 120 households in Digtoli and Seem villages are surviving on water from two springs. Households in Digtoli, a village connected to roads gets some relief from government tankers every three day. But for locals in many other villages away from road drying springs remain the only source of water. Lacking alternatives has resulted in local communities reducing their water consumption for drinking purposes and other personal uses in the two villages.

To address this issue, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in collaboration with its partners has taken up Springshed management activities under the Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative (KSLCDI). A team of experts visits sites in Kailash Scared Landscape regularly to map springs and other major water sources and to understand the social and governance aspects of springs in the area.

The ICIMOD ‘Springshed approach’ is an initiative to understand the hydrogeological perspective of springs, the current demand and supply pattern, and existing local management practices, if any, at a landscape scale to use that science and understanding to pilot community-based revival, restoration and management of springs and mitigate water scarcity issues.

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