• Non-ICIMOD Publication

SABAL project: Multi use water system (MUS)

More than 80% of the population in Nepal are still dependant directly and indirectly on agriculture for their livelihoods. With over 85% of the population living in rural areas and the national GDP being heavily dependant on agriculture, this sector has been prioritized by the government for development. Despite the focus by the government and the importance of agriculture sector, most rural and remote districts have seen very little effort towards this end. The long conflict, the continuing political unrest and the current fragile government has all combined to further marginalize the interest of rural poor in the context on &ldquo;New&rdquo; Nepal.<br /> <br /> Various reports and studies report that Nepal has seen an overall reduction in poverty from 42% to 31% over the last decade. However, this has been driven by the growth in private sector and is more urban focused rather than rural. Rural poverty still remains high at 35%. Lack of access to irrigation is a major factor linked with rural poverty. According to the latest &ldquo;Nepal Living Standards Survey&rdquo; conducted by the Government of Nepal, the risk of poverty is more pronounced among farm households that do not have access to irrigation. And as access to irrigation and the share of irrigated area increases, the poverty gap between farm households with and without irrigation grows. Most of the middle hills region of Nepal, especially in the Far Western Nepal where incident of poverty is very high, access to water is limited at best. Most irrigation water in the middle hills comes from small rain-fed side streams. These have seasonally high discharge variability and may have no water in the pre-monsoon dry season. Some of these districts also have temperate climate and are considered to be suitable for a wide variety of vegetables and cash crops if sufficient water can be made available. However, many households, and often entire village communities, have no access to irrigation and are primarily dependent on rainfall for their crops.<br /> <br /> Lack of access to water also has an adverse impact on domestic situation. Most families have to use communal sources of water for a wide variety of uses like drinking water, washing clothes and utensils, sanitation use like for flushing toilet and bathing and even for the use of cattle and livestock. This puts additional pressure on communal sources, increases drudgery and incidence of illness related to water borne diseases due to unhygienic management of water sources and its use. In addition, the level of awareness and exposure on the appropriate drinking water and irrigation systems are still very low at the grassroots level.<br /> <br /> There have been numerous interventions from public and development sector on increasing the access to safe drinking water and irrigation facilities for these communities through a wide variety of approaches. However, one of the most effective approaches has been the Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) approach used by Practical Action, IDE Nepal, Winrock and other organizations involved in this sector. This low cost IWRM system provides community access to water for a wide variety of purpose that encompasses social, economic, and even religious priorities of the rural people. Hence, the essence of this system lies beyond just drinking water and irrigation. The Multiuse Water Systems (MUS) project in particular has gained popularity in Nepal for its simplicity, cost effectiveness and its applicability in a wide range of geographical locations.

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