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30 Jan 2017 | Gender in Koshi

The road ahead for Nepal’s water management

Nilhari Neupane

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Photo: Nilhari Neupane, ICIMOD

In the Lohajar VDC of Saptari district, in Nepal’s floodplains, Gopal Khatiwada plays a key role in developing and implementing of local water use master plans or WUMPs, for short. WUMPs are five-year plans that use an integrated approach to manage water resources at the village level. They also strive to promote social and gender equity when communities design and execute water and disaster management plans.

For the past two years, ICIMOD and HELVETAS have been promoting WUMPs in three communities in the Koshi River basin in Nepal.

When I meet Khatiwada, who serves as the Secretary of the Lohajara Village Development Committee (VDC), he is organizing a year-end council meeting to discuss annual plans for his VDC. This meeting brings together various groups distinguished by class, caste, and gender.

Agricultural lands destroyed by soil erosion in Mahuli watershed. Disaster management is core part of the local water use master plan
Photo: Nilhari Neupane, ICIMOD

During our brief chat, I ask Khatiwada about the status of the recently completed Waster Use Master Plan (WUMP) for Lohajara. He says with great enthusiasm that WUMP will be a central part of the upcoming council meeting, the result of more than two years working with ICIMOD and HELVETAS to build support and capacity for WUMPs.

Khatiwada says his VDC will use its own budget to implement small water schemes like pond rehabilitation, enhanced canal irrigation facilities, and improved access to drinking water. With vision provided by the village WUMP, Khatiwada’s office will also request financial support from the Saptari District Development Committee (DDC) for scaling up these schemes and making them more robust.

With the support of DDCs, WUMPs have a better chance at achieving implementation at a much larger scale. Lohajara VDC officials and their constituents are now working together to prepare a draft plan for their WUMP implementation. It will be presented to the Saptari DDC in January.

Three other VDCs in Saptari — Mainakaderiya, Bakduwa and Jandol – plan to submit their own WUMPs as well.

A good teamwork 

ICIMOD and HELVETAS have helped to sensitize and empower with scientific information since the beginning of pilot research.
Photo: Nilhari Neupane

The WUMP collaboration between Lohajara and Saptari DDC is unique, and they hope their work will inspire the other 92 VDCs of Saptari to do the same.

Khatiwada says WUMPs not only deliver more effective water plans for communities, but also produce additional benefits by strengthening VDC profiles. Until a few years ago, he says, Lohajara was largely unincorporated, struggling to have a position on the district map. WUMP work has brought the community together to discuss water and other local development goals.

WUMP is gaining influence with authorities and communities as a positive instrument for local development. Previously, VDCs like Lohajara failed to obtain district funding because the plans they submitted to district offices lacked vision and cohesion. The training provided by WUMP spills over into other sectors of local development, and helps communities achieve long-term planning goals with better inclusiveness.

The work of ICMIOD and HELVETAS to build capacity for WUMPs, Khatiwada says, is building the confidence of local villages to prepare and plan their futures.

A good lesson for ICIMOD and HELVETAS

Gender and social equity are core part of the WUMP principles to ensure the water planning and decision making represents the voices of especially the women and disadvantaged groups.
Photo: Nilhari Neupane, ICIMOD

ICIMOD and HELVETAS oversee WUMP trainings and Saptari is the first district in the floodplain terai of Nepal where WUMPs have been initiated. HELVETAS and ICIMOD work alongside VDCs to provide technical guidance and sensitization to insure inclusion of all groups in WUMP work. The early results have been positive, and underscore the need for local communities to have ownership over their own water plans.

The early success of Lohajara and other VDCs has inspired other communities to follow suit. It is expected that the Saptari DDC will eventually assume leadership for conducting WUMP work in these communities and make them a regular part of annual planning.

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