A ray of hope on Kalimaya’s face

Kalimaya, 59, living in Betani community in Sahid Lakhan rural municipality, ward-2 of Gorkha district had very hard time fetching water. The water source of the community which has 116 families, is about two kms downhill and walking two to three hours a day to carry one vessel of water was a part of regular chores. The traditional trail is also difficult and steep. The daily walk in this difficult terrain with Gagri (mud vessel) for several hours every day had caused her physical stress. “I could not sleep whole night due to back pain,” says Kalimaya.

The hardship for water escalated quickly after the mega earthquake in 2015 whose epicenter was Gorkha district. Due to earthquake, a sole community water supply system was severely damaged, its intake was dismantled, and the source was shifted to few hundred meters down. The pipe alignment and other water supply structures were also damaged and remained dysfunctional.

Even before the earthquake, the yield drastically decreased during dry season, making it difficult for the community people to access water. The water source was not well protected from contamination, causing substandard quality of water for the community people. “My family used to suffer from diarrheal diseases several times a year,” added Kalimaya.

Betani community, is a beautiful area and quite nearby Manakamana Temple, a renowned pilgrimage where around 20,000 visitors come every day in a famous cable car.  This community had started Homestay targeting thousands of the pilgrimage tourists. However, lack of water supply was a major hindrance to their home stay businesses. Kalimaya also ran a homestay, however, lack of water made it difficult for smooth operation. She shared a pity story that a group of school children from America cancelled their ten days’ package home stay program after spending only three days due to lack of adequate water for sanitation and hygiene purposes.

After several demands from community, ward and palika, the situation assessment was carried out in 2018. The hardship of the community was the main reason behind the selection of this intervention. “Betani lifting Water Supply System project” was completed just before the COVID-19 lockdown started in early 2020 by Oxfam in collaboration with Tulsi Meher UNESCO Club and support from local government and Mott MacDonald through the UK aid funded Purnima program.

Nowadays, each of the 116 households of Betani community has a tap stand in their house yards. Purnima Program has a policy of “One tap one house.” Water is available throughout the day which had made lives very easy. This has especially impacted women, who were majorly involved in fetching water. They now have enough time for caring their children, their food, health, studies and entertainment. They themselves have some time for   rest after heavy household chores. Furthermore, with water available on the premises of their house, women of this community have started small kitchen gardening as well.

The nutritional intake is expected to increase among the children and family members due to increased kitchen gardening. The household sanitation has also significantly increased due to adequate water in the house yards. Moreover, the decentralized waste water management system inbuilt with water supply system has supported households in properly managing the water.

Regular availability of water in the latrines has also increased personal hygiene of the family members. Due to quality water delivered, the prevalence of morbidity specially, diarrheal and other water borne diseases are almost negligible according to the Female Community Health Volunteer. It has ultimately reduced women’s burden in caring for sick members of the family.

The water supply is also playing positive role in promotion of their homestay, making them financially strong and inviting more visitors to stay with ease.

Kalimaya has now resumed the homestay program and is expecting pilgrimage tourists after COVID crisis ends. She says with a huge smile on her face, Construction of tap stands in my house yard by Purnima team has made life very easy. We have spent more than a month for the community contribution to constrict the water system and we are happy to see its result now.”

Case story: Shova Kumari Chettri/ Oxfam

Photo Credit: Oma Gurung/ Tulsi Meher UNESCO Club