Thirst things firstThe only solution to the perennial water shortage is Melamchi
The parched Kathmandu Valley’s water problem is clear and present. Residents queuing up to fill their jars in the wee hours, sometimes even at midnight, has been business as usual in the Capital for decades. Yet, even after going through such an ordeal, the taps run dry. If householders manage to get water once a day, they are lucky. To add to this, wells are drying up and the groundwater table is sinking; but most importantly, the water distribution system is weak and inefficient. With Kathmandu’s population growing at the rate of 6.5 percent annually, the water shortage is only worsening.
Melamchi has remained a mirage for the last two decades. Looks like residents will have to wait for some time to see Melamchi water gushing out of their taps. But until then, to take care of the issue, the Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited (KUKL)—a public company responsible for managing the water supply and sanitation system of the Capital—has decided to supply two hours of water, five days a week. This is definitely a reason for cheer as tap water is received only once a week.
The upsurge in supply became possible after the government diverted 30 million litres of water daily from the Bagmati River to the Valley that has waited two decades for Melamchi water. The pipeline laid by the Melamchi Water Supply Project will be used to channel the additional water.According to KUKL, demand for water in the Capital exceeds 400 million litres per day. But owing to limited resources, KUKL has been supplying 140 million litres a day during the monsoon season and less than 80 million litres a day during the dry season. The deepening water crisis has also resulted in a rise in reliance on private water sellers who charge exorbitant prices with no quality assurance.
While some experts cite the city’s haphazard development as one of the main reasons for the enduring crisis, others believe over-politicisation of the Melamchi project is primarily responsible for the catastrophe. It has taken forever to complete the scheme. The latest deadline is this October, but it looks like that too will be missed. Hence, the decision to divert water from the Bagmati. So, while residents do have something to be happy about with the new decision from the government, they should be wary that this is only an ad hoc measure. A long-term solution to this perennial shortage will come about when the long-delayed Melamchi project is completed and when people too learn to be prudent with water use.