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As a young girl growing up in the hilly Dapcha Kashikhanda municipality, Sushila Adhikari remembers her local pond Daraune Pokhari. It used to be much larger than it is today.
‘It’s quite sad that there is so little water today in many ponds like Daraune Pokhari’, said thirty-year-old Adhikari. But while she is saddened by the poor state of the old pond, she is hopeful it can be rehabilitated. Increased awareness that ponds can be maintained and new ones constructed for improving spring water flow can be credited to a pilot research project initiated jointly by Nepal Water Conservation Foundation (NWCF) and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development’s (ICIMOD) Koshi Basin Programme (KBP). The initiative is supported by Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), through the Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio (SDIP).
KBP launched the programme in Dapcha and Tinpiple areas of Kavrepalanchowk District, east of Nepal’s capital Kathmandu in 2013.
Community perception on spring revival has changed since the project started three years ago.
‘The local community were partners of the action research aimed at understanding the relationship between rainfall, groundwater recharge and spring water availability and implications on rural livelihoods’, Santosh Nepal said, Water and Climate Specialist from ICIMOD. He explained action research used a grassroots-based approach to understand the real water crisis faced by local communities, whose source of living is predominantly small-scale farming.
‘A major lesson we learnt during the research was that social and community mobilisation are crucial to determine the success or failure of water management’, said NWCF’s Chairperson Dipak Gyawali. He explained that prior to the research project, there was little knowledge on why springs dry up, techniques to revive springs, and the relationship between recharge ponds and reviving springs.
Many villagers like Adhikari are working together at research sites to rehabilitate old ponds like Daraune Pokhari and constructing new ones in the upstream areas of springs. The results have been encouraging as local government bodies like the municipality and Village Development Committees (VDCs) have made rehabilitation of old ponds and spring protection activities top priorities in their annual development plans. Seventeen projects for pond rehabilitation and construction, spring protection and water distribution have been proposed for 2017 with a budget of nearly NPR 2.1 million.
A survey conducted by NWCF in July of government officials, school teachers, women and the general public found the project had positive impact on key issues including water availability, protection and revival of springs, livestock care, and reducing the drudgery of women, who usually bear the burden of ensuring water security in their households. The project ensured women were actively involved in all activities and they were able to take active part in discussions and decision making in constructing the recharge ponds.
‘Although the pilot project ended in July, local people are determined to continue activities that are sustainable for local water management’, said Mr Gyawali during a one-day workshop held in Dhulikhel municipality of Kavrepalanchowk district on 15 August. The workshop shared outcomes of the project and knowledge gained among the key stakeholders. Participant and Chairman of Jogipani Pond Conservation Committee, Nawaraj Adhikari, offered his land for the construction or a recharge pond to sustain the work initiated by the project.
Participants emphasised the success of the project research needs to be translated into action by incorporating knowledge into government plans and activities and outscaled throughout the midhills of Nepal where water scarcity is problematic. In Kavrepalanchowk alone, as many as 30 percent of local springs have dried up in the last decade despite being rich in water resources.
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