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Vol. 4                                       No. 3                                 June 2002

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NEPAL

Have milk instead....

If you ask any of the 60-odd families living in Nepal’s Gaijurang village for some water to drink, what you would end up getting instead is milk, curd or buttermilk. This does not mean villagers of this remote hamlet in Makwanpur district are affluent. It’s just that the people have to trek for four hours to get a pitcher of water. For cattle and irrigation, however, the region has made good use of the simple and cheap Water Harvest Tanks (WHTs) to collect rain water. In all, 57 WHTs exist in Kalikatar, Raksirang, Kankada, Bharta, Sarikhel, Hadikhola and Manahari areas of Makwanpur district.

Another cost-effective technique that promises to solve Nepal’s water problem to quite an extent is artificial storage and recovery (ASR) that is used extensively in USA, Australia and UK. The International Association of Hydro-geologists Commission on Management of Aquifer Recharge is promoting ASR in a big way in least developed countries. In Nepal, 24 million cubic metres (50 per cent) of the water supplied to the valley is from ground water extraction. Of this, only five mcm is replaced. ASR will help bridge this gap between withdrawal and replacement.

Source: The Kathmandu Post 2002, Villager exchange milk for water, May 13. The Kathmandu Post 2002, Rainwater tanks for irrigating land, May 15



BANGLADESH

Antidote of arsenic

In Bangladesh, realisation is gaining ground that rainwater harvesting is a sustainable solution to combat arsenic polluted groundwater of 59 out of its 64 districts. The government has decided to launch a nationwide campaign to not only do rainwater harvesting but more significantly, to change people’s negative attitudes towards its use.

Alarm bells had begun ringing as far back as 1993 when the arsenic contents in groundwater were found to be higher than the permissible limit of 0.05 mg/l. The problem became worse as the presence of an unacceptable level of arsenic did not superficially alter the taste, colour or odour of water. Moreover, arsenic poisoning, which only affected people with poor nutrition, take several years to be detected and by then had already become life threatening. Although the genesis of the contamination is yet to be fully comprehend, natural weathering of subsurface soil is being cited as the sole contributor. Presently, deep aquifers are free from arsenic.

The government and different organisations have been working hard to solve the menace. But the desired results are still far from sight.

According to water experts, use of groundwater for drinking purposes should be banned, instead, water from wells, deep tube wells, rivers and ponds, and rainwater should be used. However, considering the high cost of surface water treatment, the government has decided to concentrate on rainwater, which comes free of cost and is abundantly available – over 1,500 mm/year between April and September.

Till recently, this resource has not been adequately harnessed due to lack of awareness among the masses about the potential use of rainwater for drinking and cooking purposes. As the number of surface water bodies are increasing being encroached for construction, locals will now be forced to look for alternatives.

Towards that end, the government has launched a mass awareness drive to train people about rainwater harvesting techniques. "When people will realise that a scientific and cheap method is within their reach and will ultimately lead to better health, they will change their attitude towards rainwater."

The department of Public Health and Engineering has selected 20 highly-contaminated villages in five divisions for the purpose of implementing RWH techniques. And an attitudinal change has already begun with many people applauding these initiatives against the spread of liquid poison. Kazi Kamruzzaman, chairman of Dhaka community hospital, said, "We are happy to see that the government has put emphasis on the use of rainwater, for which we have been long fighting for."

Sources: Water 21, December 2001 issue. The Bangladesh Observer 2002, "Preserve rainwater to combat arsenic contamination", April 28.



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Water harvesting rules

Individuals and organisations going in for rainwater harvesting (RWH)have to observe certain rules, if they want to reap sustainable benefits. In 2000, Osmania University, Hyderabad, implemented RWH on a massive scale, but due to lack of proper maintenance most of the RWH structures have degenerated into garbage pits. This situation can be easily avoided by just adhering to the following rules:

dot.gif (88 bytes)Keeping the catchment clean.
dot.gif (88 bytes)The usage of chemical fertilisers and pesticides in the lawns should be restricted.
dot.gif (88 bytes)Ensure that the storm water drains are kept separate from the sewage drains.
dot.gif (88 bytes)The filter materials have to be either replaced or washed properly before the monsoon.
dot.gif (88 bytes)The roof outlet on the terrace should be covered with mesh to prevent entry of leafs or other solid waste in the system.
dot.gif (88 bytes)The first flushing must be done to dispose off the polluted runoff.
dot.gif (88 bytes)Proper technical guidance must be sought before executing the project.


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