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Importance of Water Resources Management in Nepal

Mr. Subash Duwadi, Environmental Services Professional   

Out of the basic conditions for life on earth the availability of the water is must. Water like air bounded up with man evolution. Besides, existence of human life and activities. Water is also essential for the quality of life and environment. Man’s habit and activities in all walk of the existence and form of social organizations are influenced more by the close association with water rather than other natural resources. The ancient civilization developed only along river banks when water was readily exploitable. Rivers, lakes and oceans greatly facilitated the worldwide spread of the population and commerce, springs, Waterfall, glaciers, and snow fields’ offers variety of attraction for tourist. Water has various uses in human life.  For example, the weight of water help in running out hydro-electric turbines, the density of water help in floating ships, boat while the energy of water ( when heated) provides stream for running locomotive and turbines and to warm our dwelling unit as well. Besides it provides irrigation to grow vegetation. By virtue of this, water may consider as the most helpful servant of the mankind and consequently, the most significant resources of society.

About 97% of the total available water on earth is contained in ocean and hence saline in nature. Out of the balance 3% which is available as fresh water about 2% is contained in ice inaccessible region and 0.75% as ground water. Out of remaining 0.25%, only about 0.01% is available in lakes and rivers at any given time and the rest occurs as glaciers and snow.The total water contained in the atmosphere is still less and is of the order of 0.001% of the total available water. Therefore the surface water which can be readily utilized by the society is very small.  Even the surface runoff that flows in the river of the world mostly goes wasted since it flows down to the ocean in absence of the proper storage for the source. It is estimated that about 96% of the total annual surface runoff goes and join the sea and is thus not to put any worthwhile use. This large scale wastage of the surface water flow is done true in Nepal because out of 225 billion cubic meter of annual surface flow, only 2% is utilized in our country and the rest drain down to Indian plain passes through the large Gangetic plains of India and enters Bangladesh before it finds drain down to the Bay of Bengal and join the sea.
On the other hand, acute water shortage is being felt in several part of the country. It is therefore imperative to develop additional storage in the country to reduce this wastage to as low as possible.
Since, demand of the water is continuously increasing, but the availability of the water remains the same. Due to this continuous increasing demand, the water is bound to become shortage. Hence in order to ensure that, this great resources of humanity, continues to fulfill our demands for all times, it is absolutely essential to maintain, conserve and use it very carefully. 

Nepal consists of about 80% of the mountainous area. The rest being plains and lowland. It consists of the three roughly parallel strips.
1) Northern Region of the high mountains 
2) Central Region 
3) Southern Region of Terai 

Nepal is under the general influence of the sub- continental climatic pattern. It has two distinct seasons. The summer- monsoon season and the dry winter season. The summer- monsoon season which lasts from the June/July to September/October brings about the 90% of the total rainfall. The winter rains account for about 10% of the total rainfall. The average annual precipitation of Nepal is about 1516 mm. The precipitation varies from 210 mm in Jomsom in Mustang district which is a dry region to about 5460 mm (1974) in the wet region of Pokhara. There are different water resources in Nepal. They are as follows. 

a) Surface Water 
Precipitation that doesn't soak into the ground or return to the atmosphere by evaporation or the transportation is called surface water. It forms streams, lakes, wetlands, and artificial reservoirs. Hence the source of the surface water is from river runoff and the floods. Depending on their sources of the dry - season discharge, the river of Nepal are of three grades. The first grade river are the Karnali, Narayani and the Sapta Koshi along with same of their tributaries, having their sources in the snow and glaciers in the Himalayan Region.

b) Ground Water   
Some precipitation infiltrates the ground and fills the pores in soil and the rock. The subsurface area where all available soil and the rock spaces are filled by the water is called the zone of the saturation and the water in these pores is called ground water. Although ground water resources are still under investigation, so far the most prospective sites of the ground water resources lying mostly in the Terai and in some mountainous valleys as well. For drinking and other purposes people have made wells static water tables of the aquifers lie normally between 3 $ 10 m from the ground surface in the eastern and Central Terai with yield between 100 $ 300 m3/hr.

c)  Lakes, Spouts and Hot Springs
There are innumerable lakes and ponds, covering about 2% of the total runoff. Most of the oxbow lakes, are found in Terai. There are several hot springs known as " Tatapani" and similarly hot suppurated water exists about 1KM south of kodari check post in Sunkoshi valley. In Janakpur also there are three hot springs containing sodium, potassium, sulphate, carbonate and chlorine ions.

There are about 6000 rivers in Nepal. 1000 of which are more than 11 kms long and about 100 of them are longer than 160 kms. The total length of all streams and rivulets exceeds 45,000 km. Thus the drainage density expressing closeness of spacing of channels is approximately 0.3 km per sq km. It is expected that for the next couple of decades this natural water resources particularly during the rainy season will not change. Moreover, the mountainous terrain along with the summer monsoon produces disastrous flood in Nepal. However, the resources may decrease substantially during the winter and springs months due to less precipitation. The water use during dry period, is extensive and unqualified and makes it difficult to establish a relationship between rainfall and runoff. Water is mainly used in Nepal for the agricultural domestic, industrial and the commercial purposes. Uses of the withdrawn water vary from one region to another.

Agriculture:  About 80% of the people in Nepal are engaged in Agriculture. So Nepal is at present principally on agricultural country. However agricultural land is decreasing day by day. There are primarily two types of irrigation system; the farmer's system and the government system.Most government systems have permanent intake sites with operational facilities, whereas farmer's systems have temporary diversions which they repair, if damaged much irrigation water is wasted 70-80% of the water either evaporates or seeps into the ground before reaching crops. In cities, the pattern water use in changing with the greatest amount of  the water being used b urban consumers rather than agriculture. While agricultural use puts seasonal demands are constant throughout the year. Thus as land use in transformed from agriculture to urban use, water distribution becomes more complex and increasingly hard to manage. From different analysis it has been found that the only avenue which can generate immediate impact on the economy of Nepal is the irrigation.

Domestic Use: Surface water, ground water and spouts supply water for domestic use. The major sources of water for drinking and the domestic use is surface water. Water withdrawal for the industrial use and the energy production is lowest in Nepal. As population, urbanization and the industrialization grow, the volume of waste needing treatment will increase enormously. Water resources along with brings several problems like 

Freshwater Shortage: During winter and spring season (October to May) there is not much precipitation so scarcity of water occurs. Water stress occurs because a combination of the dry climate occasional drought, poverty, rapid population growth and land degradation interact in a positive feedback loop. Due to the shortage of water problem, in drinking water, for domestic use, for the irrigation, fisheries hydro power, industrial work, infrastructure development and ultimately affected the human existence. 

Water in Excess: Nepal gets most of precipitation falls in the monsoon season between June and September. This prolonged downpour water logs  soils, leaches, soil nutrients, washes away top soil & crops & causes flowing water to over flow its normal channel & flood the adjacent flood plain. The people of Terai and Mountainous always facing the floods and landslides respectively during monsoon. The recent monsoon flooded most part of Terai and causes loss of many lives and property.

Water Pollution: The activities like discharging domestic sewage & sludge, industrial effluents, agricultural chemicals and the solid wastes, encroaching riverbank for illegal settings, pig farming, vehicle repair and slaughter of animals, all these contribute to the pollution of water resources and poor water quality. Consequently people suffer from different types of diseases.. To utilize the natural resources for the maximum benefit of the human being it is essential that proper man agement of the natural resources be made. One way to manage water resources is to increase the supply in a particular area by building dams & reservoirs, bringing in surface water form another area or tapping ground water. Another approach is to improve the efficiency of the water use.

Solutions for Supplying more water Constructing Dams and Reservoirs: Huge  dams and reservoirs have benefits & drawback, water from rain & melting snow can be captured and stand in large reservoirs created by daming streams. This water can then be released to produce hydro electric power at the dam site, to irrigate land and to provide water carried to towns and to provide water carried to towns and the cities by the aqueducts. Reservoirs are also can be used for the recreation activities such as swimming, fishing, boating.

Tapping Groundwater: Groundwater should be tapped for the solving water problems. Ways to slow groundwater depletion include controlling population growth, not planting water- thirsty crops in dry areas, developing crops strains that require less water & wasting less irrigation water. 

Solutions: 1) Reducing Irrigation losses 2) Wasting less water in Industry 3) Wasting less water in homes and business.

Though water is supported to be the most abundant natural resources of Nepal, a state of  un management will lead to mis- utilizationof resources. More or less many National and International institutions are presently involved directly or in directly in developing, preserving and using water resources. The institutions are metropolitan and sub- metropolitan authorities, The Ministry of  Water Resources, Housing and Physical Planning, Forestry and social conservation, Industry, Transport, Local Development  and  Agriculture are responsible for managing and supplying water in the country. There are many International organizations involved in water supply, water quality monitoring and quality maintenance some of which are UNICEF, HELVETAS, FINNIDA, JICA, WHO, World Bank, and ADB. However the mandates responsibilities and authorities of these institutions overlap and lack coordination.

Though Nepal is blessed by abundant water resources, proper management and utilization haven't been done yet. Management will include access, control, distribution and conservation of the resources.

Assessment of Resources



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