Averting a potential catastropheWater scarcity due to the drying up of water reserves has given rise to many problems.
Due to the impact of climate change, many freshwater springs in the mid-hills of Nepal have been drying up and disappearing. Such a trend has brought about many negative consequences in these areas and has exacerbated the already existing water crisis. Women particularly face hardships as they have to travel to far away areas to fetch water. This brutal workload makes them fall victim to problems such as miscarriage and uterine prolapse. More than 1 million women in Nepal suffer from uterine prolapse, according to research finding published in the International Urogynecology Journal.
Moreover, many people in the mid-hills depend on farming as their stable source of income and food, and a continuous water supply plays a vital role in agriculture. Most high value crops such as vegetables, that people are more inclined to grow, require a higher amount water than cereals that fetch lower prices. More and more unpredictable rainfall due to climate change means people’s dependency on other water sources for agriculture has increased these days. But even these sources are drying up which is leading people to migrate to the big cities due to lack of food, income and a stable source of water. Those who are staying behind are facing difficulties eking out even a hand-to-mouth existence, not to mention poor sanitation and health hazards brought about by water scarcity.
Vulnerable to conflict
Similarly, a society that faces water scarcity is more vulnerable to conflict than one that is not short in water supply. The drying up of water reserves in the mid-hills of Nepal has already intensified water related conflict in villages as people have to compete with each other for the limited sources of water. Growing pressure on the limited water resources has disrupted social harmony. With climate change expediting the rate of drying and disappearing of these natural water resources, societies are becoming more prone to conflicts by the day.
Water scarcity due to the drying up of water reserves has given rise to many problems, and if proper steps are not taken to address this issue, serious challenges could be faced by the people in the future. To combat the consequences of drying water reserves, the people should be equipped with tools such as water harvesting through which they can collect and store water during the rainy season and use it during the dry season. Such technology has been proven effective in places like Pala and Gulmi where people were facing acute water shortages but were able to rejuvenate agriculture after the introduction of this technology.
Similarly, rural bodies of the government should introduce technology like solar water pumps on a large scale so that people can get access water that is far away from them. Such pumps have proven to be very effective in places like Jumla where people have been able to pump water from low lying rivers to areas of higher elevation. This could reduce the workload of women significantly and may render the land at higher elevations cultivable. Drip irrigation, mulching and drought tolerant crops can be other effective ways to cope with the water shortage.
These are just some ways that can help us adjust to the drying of water reserves. One of our biggest challenges is prevention of the further loss of the existing resources and rejuvenation of the lost resources. Apart from climate change, the major culprit behind drying water reserves is unplanned urbanisation and haphazard development of infrastructure. For instance, poorly planned and rapid road construction in the hilly areas of Nepal has destroyed many water reserves that are crucial to the people residing in those areas. Similarly, most major settlements in the hilly areas are located near water sources, and rapid expansion of these settlement areas without any consideration of the places of hydrological importance has also accelerated the decline of water resources. Deforestation and unpredictable rainfall are some other issues that have added to the problem.
Therefore, to prevent the depletion of current water reserves, the government should take important aquifers into account while planning and executing development activities and formulating urbanisation policy. Scientific forest management should be promoted, and deforestation should be discouraged mainly in the hilly areas to rejuvenate lost water resources.
Finally, water crisis is one of the greatest challenges that the world is going to face in the coming years. Geography, lack of infrastructure and lack of proper tools to cope with water shortages makes Nepal much more vulnerable to this problem than many other countries. Nevertheless, we still have abundant water reserves that, if protected and preserved through concerted efforts of the government and the people, possess great potential to fulfil future demand for water. Thus, while equipping people to adapt to water shortage, the government should make efforts to preserve the existing water reserves so that future conflicts and other problems associated with water shortage can be avoided.