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[KATHMANDU] Poor governance and political instability are preventing the Himalayan country of Nepal from taking advantage of its abundant water resources and ensuring water security for its people, a new analysis shows.
Carried out by Eloise Biggs, lecturer at the University of Southampton, UK, the study shows that Nepal needs an integrated water management system that takes into account the links between water resources, governance, and accessibility; and the water-energy-food nexus.
“A key component of integrated water resources management is an enabling environment facilitated by the active role of institutions,“ says John Duncan, post-doctoral researcher at the University of Southampton, and co-author of the analysis published in Environmental Science Policy in November 2013.
Such an environment is “largely lacking in Nepal and will subsequently handicap attaining water security alongside societal development and environmental sustainability,” Duncan tells SciDev.Net.
Nepal's rivers flow southward into India and contribute an average 45 per cent of the total flow to the Ganges river, with the contribution rising to over 70 per cent during the monsoon season. The paper emphasises the importance of transboundary basin management. “Transboundary governance is needed to ensure that water is fairly and equitably managed from national to local level,” says Biggs.
Biggs says that future water security can only be ensured through an integrated approach with a consortium of scientists providing an increased understanding of the Ganges system, including the rainfall it receives and its surface water and groundwater.
“The scientists need to engage with institutional policy makers to ensure that informed decision-making is achieved, and local communities are consulted and listened to regarding decisions which will impact their livelihoods,” says Biggs.
Local water experts also stress on successive governments’ failure to create political, social, economic and administrative systems that are required to meet robust modern water supply needs.
“The blame for failing to institute a working water governance mechanism goes to the politicians since they have not allowed institutions to function systematically,” says Madhav Karki, senior researcher   at the Institute for Social and Environmental Transition, Kathmandu, which works on sustainable development practices.
For the capital city of Kathmandu, for example, the government supply is only 45 million litres per day in the dry season whereas the demand is 120 million litres per day.

“Successive governments have demonstrated that they have little political will or management capability to run modern utilities like power and water and the strategies they prepare have little resonance with local needs,” says Dipak Gyawali, former water resources minister.  

Link to abstract in Environmental Science and Policy

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