What is the use of the thing when you cannot use it appropriately and in time? It’s like shopping a beautiful latest design shoe but of wrong size and of two different designers. Talking about the water resource, almost everybody of Nepal tells it’s second richest of the world in term of water resource but the use of it, don’t ask me; it’s frustrating.
Here, I will be talking about the western part of Nepal, Karnali River; It is the longest river (507 km) with largest basin in terms of area within Nepal having headwater in Himalaya. The Karnali river basin in western Nepal is one of the three major basins of Nepal, the other two being Gandaki and Koshi basins. The river originates from the south of Mansarovar and Rokas lakes located in China (Tibet) and enters Nepal as Humla-Karnali near Khojarnathwith many snow fed rivers in this part of the Himalayan belt. This river basin lies between the mountain ranges of Dhaulagiri in central Nepal and Nanda Devi to the west of Nepal. It cuts through the Himalayas in Nepal and joins the Sarda River at Brahmaghat in India.
This river originates from the Higher Himalaya, passes through the mountains and hills and finally reach in the terai, flat plans. While flowing from high land to lowland it reflect itself in different behavior, phase and circumstances to affect our livelihood.
Actually, Karnali River Basin is isolated from rest of the world and the real challenge in Karnali is that it does not have a dependable connectivity with other districts, though the lower elevation flat land may be easy it usually takes days of walk to reach nearest good motor head and it has unreliable and seasonal air links from some of the parts of Nepal. The heavy concentration of poverty, low social development, weak governance and high cost of development due to inaccessibility and scattered settlement are the major highlights of the Karanali River Basin.
Most of the social sector development, such as health, education, sanitation, drinking water are at the bottom when compared with other parts of the country. People who are living with restricted access to basic services are further embedded with widespread unemployment and limited livelihood opportunities. The major hindrances for the development of the area are difficult topography, harsh climate, snow falling during winter, delays crop production and the absence of any serious effort on the part of the government. The people in the higher altitude are mostly dependent on the air lifted food from outside.
Along with the members of a project of Runoff scenario and water based adaptation strategies in South Asia funded by Asia Pacific Network I went to different parts of Karnali basin. We tried to cover the Higher Himalaya, Hills and flat plains of the Karnali Basin and observe the water distribution, different issue related to water and livelihood status of the people in Karnali River Basin which is one of the Basin of the study.
There is water everywhere but the sad part is it is not in the place where it is needed. There is frequent snowfall in the Higher Himalaya and that water in the form of snow is creating more difficulties in the livelihood. In the hills the river flows down the crevasses but the human habitation is on near to the top of the Hills, all the land which is allocated for the agriculture runs dry and there is almost zero production. There is water but it’s like not having it. In terai/flat lands water is stored naturally in some of the places in form of lakes/taal but who cares, it has been the neglected beauty and the river which is talk of the town acts as nothing but the reason for flood during the time of monsoon.
Agriculture is the major sector of Nepalese economy, In the western Nepal there is low agricultural production and other developmental programmes therefore to incerese productivity, diversify the base, and overall development of the area the government should focus on irrigation, the use of appropriate technology, the introduction of high-yield varieties, and the provision of credit. Proper research of the area should be done and appropriate methodolies should be adopted but at the same time we should focus on current livelihood status of people.
What can we say from the science perspective to the local people who are solely dependent on the precipitation for the livelihood, (agriculture is the major source of livelihood of Nepal) when past precipitation data shows decreasing trend in the Karnali Basin and now they are observing the erratic rainfall. Is there no good future for them!!! Therefore, there is water everywhere but in the wrong phase, place and time. I was just wondering how can we use the snow to our daily life which falls abundantly in the higher Himalaya, How can we effectively distribute water to the high hills though the river may be flowing in deep down gorge, and how can we manage flood in the flat area. How can people in all area whether it is high altitude or lowland get fresh and pure water for drinking and running their livelihood!
I believe there is need of some little twist in the science, some little more research, some little more ground observation, a little more inspiration to the farmers and little more coordination and collaboration from everybody from everywhere.