Rainwater Harvesting: A Key to Drinking, Irrigation, Disaster Prevention and Poverty Alleviation in the Mountains of Nepal

Bhuwani Paudel

Proceedings of Unfolding Futures: Nepalese Economy, Society, and Politics
Friday-Sunday, Octobet 5-7, 2007, Ottawa, Canada


Despite bestowed with abundance of water resources, rainfalls, and precipitation, Nepal seems to be a country in dire need of clean drinking water and irrigation for its people. The mountainous region of Nepal has so many places where water resource utilization is considered as technically and economically not feasible for irrigation. In absence of new technology and in face of harsh geographical challenges, peoples in the mountains regions are living with their conventional irrigation practices, which have not undergone through improvements for ages.

Immense fresh water, on an average precipitation of 1400 mm per year, that falls over Nepal runs off without effective use and largely drains as monsoon flood. Such marvelous natural gift is barely able to improve the quality of life of people due to an absence of appropriate techniques or technologies for its sustainable use. Improvement of conventional ponds and development of water-harvesting reservoirs with exploitation of locally available impervious natural materials is a crucial demand of the time. Construction of numerous but reasonably sized water harvesting reservoirs have a greater potential for transforming Nepal than small number of massive reservoirs, which are potential environmental hazards.

Development of environmentally non-invasive rainwater harvesting reservoirs constructed from locally available materials integrated with novel techniques for its consumptive use are important for bringing people of the mountains into the development mainstream. However, developing knowledge, technology, and methodology, and taking them to people in the form of standards, guidelines, and operational manuals is not an established practice in Nepal to this date. Works in this front are urgently required if Nepal is to enable its people to appropriately harvest and utilize rainwater. This paper outlines some key elements that must be parts of such guidelines, and it highlights prime areas for further research.

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