Traditionally, rural communities in the hills of Nepal (Helvetas' focus area) have depended on unprotected springs, ponds, canals, streams and rivers for their drinking water supply. The water often had to be fetched from long distances. In 1971 His Majesty's Government of Nepal (HMG/N) embarked on an ambitious programme to develop piped water supply schemes in hill-area villages where the need for water for domestic purposes was most acute. In support of the International Drinking Water and Sanitation Decade (1981-1990), the government considerably increased activities in the water and sanitation sector. Despite these efforts, government figures show that, at the beginning of the 21st century, Nepal will be able to supply piped drinking water to only about 60% of the hill areas, and sanitation facilities will be available for less than 25% of the population.
Nepal's water and sanitation sector involves many agencies. Besides the Government there are several external bilateral and multi-lateral donor agencies. International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGO) support the sector directly with technical and financial assistance, or indirectly through integrated programmes. Two major national and various local NGOs are involved in the implementation of water supply and sanitation programmes. The private sector, e.g. engineering consultants and manufacturing companies, is also actively engaged in providing services for the sector.
Existing national guidelines lay out modes of implementation regarding sanitation, technical aspects and working with local NGOs. This has facilitated the integration of sanitation, involvement of women, peoples' participation, and the collection of maintenance funds into all drinking water programmes. Moreover, HMG/N has introduced the National Water Resources Act 1992 along with the Drinking Water Regulations 2055, which provide a legal framework for appropriate utilisation, protection, management and development of all the water in Nepal. It turns ownership of any water source over to the State and, among competing user interests, assigns the highest priority to drinking water.
During its two and a half decades of involvement in the drinking water and sanitation sector in Nepal, Helvetas has helped the Nepalese Government set up 335 large drinking water projects under the Community Water Supply and Sanitation Programme (CWSSP) and almost 100 small to medium size drinking water schemes under the Self-Reliant Drinking Water Support Programme (SRWSP). As a result of this support, a total of 35000 villagers living in the mid hills of the Western Development Region are at present beneficiaries of piped drinking water systems. Given the expected growth in population, the design of the drinking water systems allows for a potential capacity of up to 57000 users.
This paper is a description of the SRWSP concept and approach. It is divided into three parts. Chapters 1 and 2 (Part I) set the background on which SRWSP has been developed and briefly describe the SRWSP approach. - Part II looks at each of the salient features of SRWSP. Chapter 3 gives a detailed account of the community-oriented stepwise process, the backbone of the programme, while chapters 4 to 8 cover the issues of Health and Sanitation, Technology, Gender, Partnership and the Organisation. Each chapter closes with a reflection on the key issues and lessons learned, followed by a statement taken from the External Evaluation report 1997. - Part III takes a look into the future. Drawing conclusions from lessons learned, it describes how Helvetas/Nepal moves towards Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) at the local level. Some initial experiences gained in two pilot activities are shared.
Throughout the paper the term “Community” is used. The people in the community (sometimes called villagers), represented by a Water and Sanitation Management Committee (WSMC), are all those living within the area covered by the drinking water supply scheme. An average of around 50 households make up such a community, whose housing may be scattered or clustered, depending on the situation. Although the term suggests unity, a community can be very diverse. Each community consists of men and women of different ethnic and caste groups. Most of these people are involved in agricultural work, sometimes supplemented by labour abroad. The economic situation varies from well-off to very poor. Low-caste people are mostly in the lower economic and social strata. Women, in general, are subordinate to men, though in some ethnic/caste groups women enjoy a higher status than in others. When reading the paper this diversification of 'the community' should be understood.
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