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For Mountains and people

Spring and Solar Pumps

With the support from the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) on Water Land and Ecosystems (WLE), the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) is leading the initiative ‘Reviving springs and providing access to solar powered irrigation pumps through community based water use planning with multiple approaches to solving agricultural water problems in the mid-hills and Terai in India and Nepal’.

The goal of this project is to ensure affordable and sustainable access to drinking water in the mid-hills of Nepal and Uttarakhand in India and to agricultural water in Terai region of Nepal. Firstly, the initiative aims to address water insecurity in mid-hills and plains of Nepal and India. This is done by reviving springs in the mid-hills of Nepal and Uttarakhand through improved understanding of localised spring hydrogeology along with appropriate technical interventions  and policy interventions.

Secondly, it also aims to test the use of solar powered irrigation pumps (SPIPs) as a clean, climate resilient, and pro-poor solution to tackling issues related to the nexus between water, food, and energy security in the plains of Nepal. The programme will work to ensure that these tested strategies are incorporated into community-led water user master plans (WUMP). Through a consultative process, maps are created for existing water sources and detailed surveys are undertaken to assess the current conditions of springs within a given administrative boundary.

After this, the community is asked to prioritise these water sources for further investment. This activity, currently being implemented in Nepal by Helvetas, will be piloted in Uttarakhand, India, for the first time through the programme. The initiative has a strong gender focus, and aims to improve access to drinking water for women tasked with gathering water in the hills. This is done by targeting at least 30% of the SPIPs at women and improving understanding of the policies and institutional frameworks required to support small female farmers in technology adoption.

Strategies and Approaches

The first approach is to revive drying springs through state of the art understanding of localised spring hydrogeology; extensive mapping of all spring sources in the study areas; a comprehensive understanding of socio-economic, and policy, institutions and multi-layered governance aspects of spring management.  This is done through the combination of appropriate technical (e.g. spring shed catchment area treatment, or construction of recharge ponds) and policy interventions (e.g. linking welfare and poverty alleviation programs with earth work like pond excavation). The outcome of this will be springs which have been revived to provide ecosystem services to local mountain communities. Reviving springs is of particular importance to women as they are tasked with gathering water for household purposes.  When the springs dry up, they tend to travel greater distances to collect water. Often, women from marginalised castes are inordinately affected, as they are forced to collect water from lower yielding springs located in remote locations, while better springs are reserved for upper castes. We will conduct the spring revival component of the project in the mid-hills in Nepal and Uttarakhand where springs dot the landscape.

The second approach is to promote SPIPs as a climate resilient and poverty alleviation solution to tackle the water-food-energy nexus issues in Nepal Terai. We will pilot 25-30, small sized SPIPs (500 watt peak to 1500 watt peak) in one or two districts in Terai and carry out high quality impact evaluation studies. Nepal Terai has approximately 120,000 shallow tubewells, 90% of them run on diesel fuel – which is expensive and makes intensive irrigation uneconomic. The alluvial aquifers in Terai are rich and very little of the groundwater has been actually tapped. SPIP can enable intercropping and multiple cropping and better livelihood opportunities for women and men farmers. By targeting at least 30-50% of our solar irrigation pumps at women, we will develop an understanding of the policies and institutional frameworks required to enable easy adoption of technology by small female farmers. Moreover, by testing a technology that reduces both pollution and greenhouse gasses (GHGs), we are promoting clean energy development with significant potential to address environmental challenges confronting South Asia.

The third approach is to incorporate components of spring revival and SPIP into community led WUMPs, which is being implemented in Nepal by Helvetas. This will be piloted in Uttarakhand for the first time in this project. WUMP, through a consultative process, maps all existing water sources and conducts detailed surveys on their condition in a village development committees (VDCs) and then asks the community to prioritise these water sources for future investment – investment which then comes from the Government of Nepal through its funds allocated to VDCs and district development committees (DDCs).