Now that people have actually seen and touched the water in their taps from the long talked about Melamchi project, it is also time to discuss water conservation. When the project was designed thirty plus years ago, it had the capacity to meet 14 years of demand growth in the Kathmandu valley. Politicians at the time declared they would wash the streets of Kathmandu with water from Melamchi.
In order to meet the growing demand for water, the valley residents have opted for shallow wells; while businesses and hotels have mostly opted to extract fossil water with deep boring. Protection of the Shivapuri hills to the north of the valley is a success in watershed management that needs to be replicated to the four corners of Kathmandu and also across Nepal.
The timing for the release of Melamchi water at the end of a very dry winter could not be better. Locals who know their history and culture are aware of long droughts in Nepal and the Kathmandu valley. The Baudha stupa known as Khasti in Newari is said to have been built during a 12-year drought, by collecting morning dew drops (khasu tee).
In a country where the enforcement of laws and regulations still depend on who you know and what strings you can pull, management and equitable distribution of a vital resource like water is not simple. Numerous water sources and recharging areas have been destroyed by cutting down trees, mining rock and sand and encroaching open spaces.
What will really make a difference is how each one of us takes individual action to conserve, utilize and mange “waste” water. It is the cumulative impact of our individual actions that will help planet earth to heal. If we can extend our actions from our home to our school and office that will be a huge contribution.