A Milestone for Local Water Management in the Koshi Basin

   TwitCount

The local community in Saptari, a district in the Terai region of Nepal, is elated with news that their local five-year water use master plan (WUMP) is being included in the district level development plan of the Government of Nepal. 

The government’s district administrative unit, the district coordination committee (DCC)—formerly the district development committee (DDC)—has full authority to strategize, plan, and implement local initiatives for the benefit of local communities. 

Realizing the increasing demand of WUMPs at the former village development committee (VDC)—now rural municipality —level, Saptari DDC acknowledged WUMP initiatives in its District Periodic Plan (2016–2019). It also acknowledged the need of WUMPs at the district level in relation to irrigation planning and disaster prevention. 

“VDCs in Saptari have been preparing WUMPs for the past three years. This is a big achievement for the local communities in the district,” said Nabaraj Khadka, programme officer of the Sapatri DDC Office, where he is also the WUMP focal person.

Since 2014, ICIMOD’s Koshi Basin Programme (KBP) and HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation have been supporting  local authorities to plan and implement the social and gender inclusive WUMP as a pilot project in VDCs in the districts of Sindupalchok, Sindhuli, and Saptari, which cover three ecological zones.

The key goal is to promote effective, efficient, and equitable water management plans at the local level with the aim of scaling out at the river catchment and eventually at the district levels.

This official endorsement has been considered rewarding for the local communities of Saptari’s VDCs where WUMPs are being implemented. The endorsement—declared during the VDC council meeting held in early 2017—will facilitate the allocation of nominal funds to implement small WUMP schemes. 

The communities have realized that having a comprehensive WUMP plan on hand will help them seek additional funding from their respective DDC and other potential sources for the implementation of relatively larger schemes. In their view, WUMP plans have increased their awareness and given them the confidence to promote participatory water centric development.

WUMP initiatives embody the principal of a participatory and bottom up approach. They currently reach approximately 12,000 beneficiary households. If outscaled strategically, they can gain wider geographical coverage in the Koshi basin.

During the preparation of water use plans, respective VDCs played instrumental roles which were reinforced by the scientific expertise provided by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and the experience in local-level development planning provided by HELVATAS. 

A milestone for WUMP initiatives

“Our DDC officials in Saptari really appreciate the efforts of ICIMOD and HELVETAS in initiating WUMP in the district,” said Komal Dhamala, former Local Development Officer. This recognition is considered a milestone in terms of spreading awareness on the need for local water use planning in different parts of Saptari district, connecting the catchment and local administrative units.

Gopal Khatiwada, VDC Secretary of Lohajara, said his office is ready to contribute 10 percent of the VDC’s development budget to the initiative in the coming fiscal year. 

Based on the experience and confidence gained from the VDC to the river catchment and DDC levels, ICIMOD and HELVETAS are trying to engage with stakeholders, policy makers, and implementers at higher levels to translate the outcomes into policies and practices. 

“We fully support the joint implementation of drinking water and sanitation related projects in WUMP VDCs,” said Lokendra Yadav, a division engineer at the Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Division Office (DWSDO) in Saptari. He said WUMPs reflect all drinking water schemes. 

The importance of a bottom-up approach to WUMP planning has increased since Nepal’s water resource planning system is entering a federal planning system. Several learnings and best practices from the WUMP in the Koshi Basin can directly contribute to water resource planning under federal structures, especially for the most marginalized of communities. “I am quite positive that Dalit communities will get an opportunity to be an important part of the local water planning and decision making process,” said Vaidhnath Mandal, a local Dalit representative from Lohajara, echoing this sentiment.