Birendranagar Municipality in Surkhet district is reeling under acute shortage of drinking water.
Dil Kumari BK of Laligurans of Birendranagar-1 has to spend around five hours to get a filled-pot from the local tap. She wondered how to sustain livelihood without water. “There is no water in the well. I cannot afford to dig a boring pit. Little water runs from the tap every two weeks. There is scarcity of water. There are no other water sources,” she lamented.
Manisha Thapa, who studies in grade five at the local Saraswati Secondary School, always finds it difficult to manage time for the school as most of her day is spent in collecting drinking water. She wakes up at 5 am and goes to the tap. She is already getting late when she reaches home at 10 am after fetching water. “In some cases, I returned without water. It is increasingly difficult for me to manage time for school and household chores due to shortage of water,” she shared.
Mostly, Pragatisheeltole, Aanpkholitole, Laliguranstole, Ekatatole, Tripureshwor tole and Dharapanitole settlements in the town are undergoing water shortage. The water tap releases the water only every 10 days, said the local people. Water is pumped from the local Jhupra river and distributed to the city after processing. Water sources drying up, unmanaged development and other natural disasters are to blame for the shortage of drinking water in the provincial capital city, said local people.
Information officer for the Water Supply, Irrigation and Energy Development Directorate, Dor Prasad Upadhyay viewed that water problem facing Birendranagar could not be resolved until the water from the Bheri river is pumped and distributed to the locals. “Other local levels are also facing water shortage. Efforts are on to resolve the problem in coordination with local levels,” he said.
Millions of rupees have been frozen without construction works on the project of pumping water from the Bheri river. For the project, the federal government set aside Rs 20 million and Rs 60 million in the previous fiscal years. In the last fiscal year, the provincial government also allocated Rs 500 million. But, the entire budget has been frozen without work in progress, it has been said.
The Municipality is now facing acute shortage of drinking water. Those, who can afford, buy tank water. Others are forced to suffer. The water tap releases water every 15 and 16 days only for one hour. Sometimes the tap stops releasing water when even a pot is not filled, said a local resident Binod Gurung.
The Surkhet Valley Water Supply Users’ Organisation (SVWSUO), an authorised body to distribute water to the villagers, is struggling to provide drinking water with water sources drying up, said the Organisation officials. The Municipality has dug two deep borings to supply drinking water to the denizens. But they are yet to come into operation.
Following acute water shortage, the ward has started repairing old wells, and small water sources, said the ward chair Krishi Giri. “Deep borings dug earlier have not been in use. We are operating a new boring,” he said.
Increasing population adds to problem
Birendranagar is flooded with population day by day after the city became the provincial capital. Migration from other districts is taking place, and new houses have added. The city has a population of 200,000 from 35,000 households. More than 20,000 water taps have been installed in the city for the residents, according to the SVWSUO.
They are struggling to meet the increasing demand for drinking water, said Giri, adding that water is distributed once every five days as water sources are drying up. “The number of consumers has significantly increased in a short span of time. The figure has shot up after Birendranagar became the capital of the Province.”
According to the SVWSUO, 157 litres per second water is pumped from the local Khari river, Bori river, Jhupra river, Itram river and Khorke river.
Out of around 278 litres per second water required, only 128 litres per second water is supplied as of now, creating water shortage, said a SVWSUO official. The water being distributed to the people of the city caters to only 46 percent of the total populace. So far, water taps have been distributed to 20,000 households. The situation further worsens when more taps are distributed this year, he said.
Alternative being sought
For a long-term solution to water crisis, bidding will be announced in the Nepali month of Asar for the project of pumping the water from the Bheri river, said the Municipality. In this regard, a tripartite agreement between the World Bank, the Government of Nepal and the Municipality has been reached.
An environmental impact assessment of the project has been over. The project will be constructed in two phases, and budget worth over Rs 4.6 billion has been ensured under the first phase, it has been said. The project is expected to resolve water crisis in the city, said Madhu Sudhan Khanal, deputy director of the Water Sector Governance and Infrastructure Support Project.
Budget has been allocated for the project since 2077 BS. To process the water pumped from the river, a water treatment plant will be set up in the forest area of Lekbensi Municipality. The completion target of the project is six years.
The Municipality has prepared a draft of the act relating to the management of drinking water, said the municipality mayor Mohan Maya Dhakal. To take the project ahead, the municipality has to publish the Water Sector Governance and Infrastructure Support Project Implementation Act, 2080 in the Municipal Gazette within June 25 and make public a notice relating to the land acquisition. The project is expected to benefit around 500,000 people of the municipality.
In the first phase, the project aims to construct intakes in the river, and water tanks, install the water processing plant, and expand the water distribution lines from Amrit Danda of Birendranagar Municipality-11.
The water is pumped and released into the water treatment plant at an elevation of around 400 metres from the river through 550 milliliters pipes at a distance of around seven kilometres before releasing into the main tank with capacity of 12,000 cubic metres.
In the second phase, the water distribution line will be expanded on both sides of the Ratna Highway and the Surkhet-Jumla road.