One of the most essential items I’ve acquired in Nepal is my light blue umbrella. I don’t leave home without it. Almost everyday the skies turn from hot and sunny (for which the sun shade function of the umbrella is essential) to a dark and cloudy grey. Fitting with the monsoon season we’re in, light drizzle to heavy rain to raucous thunder storms – lasting anywhere from a few minutes to a few days straight – is quite common. But it’s not enough. Nepal – and Kathmandu, in particular – is in the midst of a serious water crisis. Before monsoon season started in July, many Kathmandu residents only had access to water once a week. They would sit on guard with their water jugs, waiting for their local tap to come alive. The Kathmandu Post ran reports of some of these taps only spitting out black sludge when the allotted water time came.
This problem extends beyond the obvious dearth of a most basic resource. Lack of water means that Kathmandu’s power plants can’t function to anything close to their full potential – leading to huge power shortages. In the winter, Kathmandu residents have only four hours of power a day. Four hours! This is hard for me to imagine because, now that monsoon season is here, we have about twenty hours of power a day.
I asked my coworkers at WRRP about their impressions of this situation. To me, it seems very drastic that a country’s capital would have only four hours of power a day for a large part of the year. My nepali coworkers attribute the situation to three main problems. First, Kathmandu is experiencing a swelling population due both to a general population growth and to a large rural influx. A larger population and already limited water supply is not helping Kathmandu’s water situation. A second big problem is that the source of Kathmandu’s water is nearby rivers whose full supply potential is not being harnessed because of political conflict. According to my coworkers, opposition political parties are mobilizing members of local villages who will be affected if water from their nearby river is diverted to Kathmandu. The villagers are, as a result, demanding compensation for this loss. This is an understandable plight but one that is problematic for Kathmandu’s water supply. But, unfortunately, even if these rivers were able to readily supply Kathmandu’s water, it still would not be enough.
And so we come to the most commonly cited reason for Nepal’s tight water situation: climate change. According to what I’ve heard said here, the monsoon rains no longer provide the amount of rain they used to. Summer temperatures never used to be this hot. And some of the Himalayas – which used to be covered with glaciers – are now snowless year-round. The situation in the Himalayas is often talked about in the local papers, as well. With decreasing amounts of melting snow, the Indian subcontinent, which depends on the Himalayas for its water supply, might soon be in a similar situation to Kathmandu’s: without water.
So Nepal’s natural resource situation is not looking great at the moment. But, on the upside, because Kathmandu residents have to deal with resource depletion on a daily basis, the situation is very prominent in people’s minds – so prominent that it seemed worthy of a blog post. Nepal is becoming active in its attempt to deal with the effects of climate change – because now it seems it inevitably must.
Posted By Kate Bollinger
Posted Jul 21st, 2010