Salyan villagers forced to use polluted river waterAround 40 percent of the people in the district have no access to clean water.
Dilsara Pun, a 50-year-old woman of Ryang in Kalimati Rural Municipality-7, has never had access to clean drinking water. Pun, like 75 other families in Ryang, meets all her water needs from the nearest river.
But the Babahi river, half an hour from Pun’s house, does not have clean water. The river is polluted with unfiltered garbage, human faeces, animal waste and other pollutants.
“All other natural sources of water are drying up and now we only have water in the Babahi river. But the river is polluted and we suffer from bouts of illnesses after using the water from the river,” said Nirmala Oli, a 38-year-old woman from Ryang. “Water is essential and we have no choice but to use the contaminated water from the river.”
For 35 years, Pun has waited for her village to be supplied with safe drinking water and her wait continues. “I have spent most of my life waiting for a running water tap to be installed in the village but it hasn’t happened yet,” she said.
There are government-installed taps in almost every house in the village but they all run dry. The locals have been demanding the concerned authorities to provide each household with drinking water but their demands have not been addressed so far.
Nirmala Oli, a 38-year-old woman from Ryang, suffers from the same problem as Pun’s. The polluted water from the river has been causing Oli various health problems but she has not stopped using that water because there is no other alternative.
The lack of safe drinking water supply has also affected Kaprechaur, another village in Kalimati Rural Municipality-7. No authorities have shown any interest in launching a drinking water project so far, says Oli.
According to Tilli Pun of Ryang, they have to drink murky water during the rainy season and walk for hours in search of water when the river dries up from mid-March to mid-June. “I have to walk for hours in search of clean water during the rainy season,” she said. “It’s a challenge to manage clean water for household purposes.”
According to Pabitra Pun, another local resident, the villagers take their cattle to the river to be washed and groomed.
“We see the animals bathing and defecating in the river but we don’t have the means to filter the water for use at home,” said Tilli.
Health workers in the rural municipality say the consumption of unclean water from the river is one of the main causes of frequent illnesses among the villagers.
“During the rainy season, more than 10 patients of diarrhoea and dysentery come to the health post for treatment every day. The illnesses are mainly caused due to consumption of polluted water,” said Yagya Bahadur Pariyar, assistant health worker at Ghuiyabari Health Post in the rural municipality.
According to Nayan Singh Rana, chairman of Kalimati Rural Municipality-7, the drinking water problem plagues villages such as Ambas, Batule, Haukhola and Kusumtara in the ward. Nearly 300 people in the ward have been affected due to the water crisis. The rural municipality allocates a little over Rs1.5 million to each ward per year for water management.
“But the budget is not enough. Despite having a three-tier government in the country, the villagers have not been able to experience federalism. They have started leaving their settlements and moving to places with access to clean water and sanitation,” said Rana.
Chairman of Kalimati Rural Municipality Dan Bahadur Khatri said that a lack of budget has prevented his office from setting up water projects in the rural municipality.
“One water project is in the pipeline in the district. Hopefully, we will have adequate budget to see its completion,” said Padma Raj Devkota, head of the Drinking Water Irrigation and Energy Development Office, Salyan.
According to the Drinking Water Irrigation and Energy Development Office, 40 percent of the total population of the district does not have access to clean drinking water.