KATHMANDU, Feb 12: Traditional stone spouts, once a major source of water for residents of the Kathmandu Valley, are now fast disappearing.
Thanks to the rapid urbanization and lack of concerns by authorities, dozens of stone spouts have already vanished with no traces of their earlier existence. Worse still, many more have dried up with some of them on the verge of disappearing.
According to NGO Forum for Water and Sanitation, which works as a network of several civil society organizations active in water supply policy reforms, nearly one third of traditional stone spouts in the valley have either disappeared or stopped working.
"Many stone spouts have been buried under the ground because of careless constructions of buildings," said Anil Sthapit, secretary of the forum. "And, many other stone spouts have dried up after people, knowingly or unwillingly, destroyed the pipelines while constructing their houses."
According to a report prepared by the forum, of the total 389 stone spouts in the valley, 45 no longer exist, 68 have gone dry and 43 have been revived by connecting them to city supply lines. "Only 233 stone spouts are naturally working," says Sthapit. "But, they, too, are in the danger of disappearing."
At a time when the Valley residents are reeling under severe water crisis, the importance of stone spouts cannot not be emphasized enough. Many people are forced to depend on water supplied by either Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited (KUKL) or commercially-run tankers. "We can lessen the problem of water shortage by reviving the stone spouts," says Sthapit.
The demand for water in the Valley stands at 350 MLD (million liters per day). However, even during monsoon, the KUKL is able to supply only 149.62 MLD. In the dry season, there is a sharp fall in supply down to just 90.59 MLD.
According to the forum, even in the winter season, traditional stone spouts collectively discharge nearly three million liters of water every day. In the rainy season, stone spouts discharge nearly eight million liters of water every day.
Obviously, a proper method to harness the water from the stone spouts could ease the water crisis in the Valley. However, with concerned authorities and locals indifferent to the state of stone spouts, it´s quite possible that a potential solution to the Valley´s water crisis may just peter out in the future.
Most of the stone spouts in the Valley were built during Lichchhavi and Malla eras. For ages, the valley residents relied on stone spouts for water. Today, people are unwilling to use water from the stone spouts. "Who wants to carry water from stone spouts in buckets if they have taps with flowing water at home?" says Sthapit. "This is why people no longer feel the ownership of stone spouts."
Ground water forms an important source of many stone spouts. But the excessive and reckless manner in which people draw out ground water has led to depletion of ground water level. As a result, some stone spouts have dried up. A study conducted by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) had found that ground water went further down significantly compared to the last study.
In a bid to preserve stone spouts, NGO forum had submitted a report to all municipalities in the Kathmandu Valley.
Although very little has been done toward preserving stone spouts, there have been some positive signs. In Lalitpur, stone spouts like Alko Hiti, Iku Hiti and Hiku Hiti have been revived jointly by the municipality and the locals.
According to Local Self Governance Act, 1997, Village Development Committees (VDCs), municipalities and District Development Offices (DDOs) are responsible for preserving traditional and historical monuments. The act also directs the authorities not to give permission for constructing any physical structures on water pipelines of stone spouts.
However, just one look at the rampant constructions going on in the Valley is enough to make it clear that the authorities have hardly taken pains to ensure that the rules are followed.