Nepalese communities grapple with upstream-downstream water management challenges

For many years, the upstream and downstream communities in Nepal have harmoniously collaborated to ensure the availability of sufficient water for both parties. However, in recent years, with the drying up of water sources and erratic availability of water due to climate change impact, tussles over water have been increasing. To tackle this challenge, the authorities in many mid-hill towns of Nepal, including Dhulikhel, have been working to make water more available and to restore harmony between the communities.

On 27 February, the South Asian Institute for Advanced Studies (SIAS) and Dhulikhel municipality jointly organized a water forum in Dhulikhel, Nepal, under the CDKN Knowledge Accelerator project. The forum brought together stakeholders from upstream and downstream communities of neighbouring villages and municipalities, in addition to representatives from the municipality, other non-profit organizations, the private sector, and the media. ICLEI South Asia, which is the Asia regional coordinator of the CDKN programme also participated.

The forum highlighted this gap in demand and supply of water throughout the region and the need to consider the floating population while planning for water management initiatives. Community leaders also stressed the importance of long-term water management to ensure a sustainable supply of water for residents. Representatives from the Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) suggested that the private sector could also be brought in to ensure that communities had access to safe and clean water. Members of the upstream and downstream communities have also been trying to do their part to save water. In one of the wards of the downstream community, a women’s group has been reviving old water wells to conserve tap water.

The water forum gave these diverse stakeholders a platform for the first time to discuss issues, voice their concerns and to look for solutions together. In his closing remarks, Mr. Ashok Byanju, the mayor of Dhulikhel, emphasized that the stakeholders should not only discuss taking water from or giving water to a community but also form a water council that has representation from both upstream and downstream communities to ensure collaborative and sustainable use of water.

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