Friday, May 20, 2005

Rainwater harvesting can slake Kathmanduites' thirst

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, March 19:

The recent downpour was little trouble and more of a relief for Kathmanduites, considering the scarcity of drinking water. Even the government admits it can meet only half the total water demand in the capital city.

Consequently, people have to depend either on expensive water from tankers or rainwater. According to the Environment and Public Health Organisation (ENPHO), over 200 people have installed a mechanism to collect rainwater systematically, to keep the headache of water shortage at bay. "There is no record of how many people collect rainwater. But recently, around 200 people have installed a simple mechanism that helps them collect rainwater," said Rajesh Adhikari, an official at ENPHO.

Among others, Hutaram Baidhya, Prafulla MS Pradhan, Janardan Dhungana, Sangeeta Maskey, Sumitra Manandhar Gurung are some of the one-step-ahead citizens of the capital who have utilised the rainwater and have stopped worrying about water shortage during the dry season.

Officials at ENPHO wonder why the government is not taking any initiative to promote rainwater harvesting as an alternative to tide over the water shortage, though all government officials know it is a simple, cost-effective method.

Those militating against the water crisis allege that the government is guided by the interest of donors who do not want to promote rainwater harvesting as they have already invested a large amount of money in bringing in water through a 26.5 km tunnel from as far away as the Melamchi river.

The former minister for physical development, Prakash Man Singh, and the former mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City had promised to make rainwater collection obligatory last year, but neither has delivered.

Adhikari said from a 100 sq metre rooftop, one can collect four cubic metres of water in March and 35 cubic metres of water in August. "The quality of rainwater is better than what the government provides via pipelines. Even so, air pollution and the surface of catchment areas and collection tanks also matter," he said.

Noted environmentalist and executive director at Clean Energy Nepal, Bhushan Tuladhar, said air pollution also can affect the water quality, but rainwater itself can work as a flush so the rainwater collected after an hour or so is absolutely clean. So far as acid rain and its impact on rainwater harvesting is concerned, Tuladhar said the possibility of chemical pollutants in rainwater cannot be ruled out, but it is not hazardousn Kathmandu valley.