Inadequate physical infrastructure, rapid population growth and climate change impact access. Rise in demand for electricity, pressure on surface and ground water for irrigation, industrial development, rapid urbanisation with encroachment of wetlands and increased use of water for sanitation during Covid-19 are factors driving demand. Meanwhile, new water schemes are mostly based on ground water aquifers which are being depleted because of inadequate recharge.
Beyond natural and socio-economic value, Nepal’s freshwater resources also hold cultural importance. For instance, indigenous communities like the Bote, Musahar, Kumal, Chepang, Danuwar, Darai, and Tharu settle along rivers and have a rich cultural attachment to water bodies.
Investment in water can have a catalytic effect on other areas such as health, education, agriculture and job creation. Poor water quality halts economic progress, limits human potential and reduces food production.
Much of the supply-demand issue around water can be solved by giving economic value to water, and making it affordable. As the manager of a water supply scheme in Nawalpur once said: “In the beginning people readily paid as much as Rs300 per month for cable tv, but a minimum payment of Rs100 for drinking water was a big issue.” Pricing water at its full marginal cost can reduce demand, just as payments and incentives for water conservation can increase water availability.
Payment for ecosystem services to forest users, farmers or landowners in exchange for managing their land must be developed since freshwater wetlands have five times the economic value of tropical forests.
To change the future of water, we must rethink how we understand, value, and manage water as a precious resource, making every drop count. If the water cycle is not managed prudently from source to tap, and back to source, the present crisis will grow worse.
Organization like the World Wildlife Fund, Nepal we are working to manage and restore critical freshwater habitats, maintain, and protect the freshwater ecosystem health and increase community access to and right over water through good water governance.