ADB: The Bagmati River Basin Improvement Project aims to improve water security and resilience to potential climate change impact in the Bagmati River Basin. It will build on the general public’s desire to restore the river environment in the Kathmandu Valley and the Government’s efforts to improve irrigation development and mitigate the impact of water-induced disasters in the middle and lower reaches of the basin. The Project adopts the principles of integrated water resources management (IWRM) and provides Nepal with its first opportunity to apply this policy element since its adoption under the 2005 national water plan..
The Bagmati River holds a special place in the national culture. It is considered as a holy river and counts many cremation ghats and temples of great cultural value along its bank that attracts scores of Hindu devotees from all over the world who traditionally purify themselves in the holy Bagmati waters. The Bagmati River Basin also has great economic importance as it plays a crucial role in meeting the water supply requirement of the country’s capital city and downstream communities,1 as well as in sustaining irrigated agriculture in the Kathmandu Valley and along the basin.
The rapid and unplanned expansion of Kathmandu City has put tremendous pressure on the water resources of the Bagmati River Basin. In the absence of appropriate sewage collection and waste water treatment plants, the river has become the main collector drain. Solid waste deposited on the river banks also further deteriorates the river environment. Rapid urbanization has put tremendous pressure on the valley water supply distribution. During dry season, around 80% of the Bagmati River flow is diverted for domestic use leaving very little flow for irrigation and other sectors including environment. As demand could not be met from surface water, a large part is supplied from the groundwater table. The quantity extracted is estimated to be 4 to 5 times higher than the natural recharge and has caused the water table to retreat by 35 meters (m) in only 20 years. The situation is further aggravated by (i) the conversion of the recharge areas into residential areas, (ii) lowering river stream and sand mining leading to riverbed deepening, and (iii) upstream catchment degradation. As it exits the city, the river is biologically dead and made of heavily polluted sewage water that potentially endangers the downstream water users’ health.
To assist the Government in applying the participatory IWRM approach, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved in 2010 TA7547-REG: Supporting Investments in Water Security in River Basins, the objective of which is to (i) build consensus of the basin stakeholders on the possible mandate and structure of a river basin organization (RBO), (ii) build the capacity of stakeholders, (iii) support the formation of a RBO, and (iv) review and expand the Bagmati Action Plan, approved by the Government of Nepal in 2002. The regional technical assistance is being undertaken to prepare the ground for the Bagmati River Basin Improvement Project (BRBIP) and the Kathmandu Valley Urban Environmental Improvement Project (KVUEIP) that are for approval in 2013.
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