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14 Jun 2016 | Water and air

Spring Management in Darchula

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At daybreak, the villagers, mostly women and children, come out carrying containers of different shapes and sizes. They walk to mul paniyar, or the local spring, and wait for hours to collect water. This is a familiar sight in Sundamunda village, ward 7 of Dallekh VDC in Darchula district. A total of 34 households are directly dependent on this source. In lean season (roughly February to May), more households come to collect water here. Locals have to spend many hours each day walking to and from the spring.

Being closer to spring does not make things easier. Kalawati Thagunna lives very close to the spring. Every day she or one of her family members has to make 11 trips to the spring. But the water they get is not enough to meet their household needs.

According to locals, water flow in the spring has decreased over the past years. Given the shortage of water, they have to prioritize their most urgent need – drinking – and use what remains for household work and livestock.

 

Apart from making everyday life difficult, the lack of water has affected health and sanitation. Although the VDC has been declared an open-defecation free (ODF) site, people have stopped using toilets.

Despite the huge importance of the spring, there is no system or institutional setup to protect and maintain the water source. The community does not have a backup plan or coping strategies. When asked what they will do when the spring dries up, most of the locals said they would travel to another spring further up in the village.

ICIMOD’s initial observation indicates that there is a clear need to improve management of the spring and increase its water discharge. The District Water Supply Department has plans to extend pipelines to all households. However, reviving or increasing discharge simultaneously will be of utmost importance given the growing scarcity of water. Similarly, there is a need to create an institutional mechanism for the maintenance of the spring. Certain rules of hygiene should also be set, because most people wash their clothes and bathe in the spring.

This calls for a community-centric approach to spring management and restoration. The Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative (KSLCDI) of ICIMOD facilitates such an approach by building the communities’ capacity to manage springs.

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