· By Dr. Ashley Hagaman ·
Between May and June, the Nepal-based study team completed data collection in Kathmandu. Although Kathmandu is the most developed city in Nepal, its broader water situation remains complex and strained. Indeed, the government-backed Melamchi Water Project holds great promise to provide all Kathmandu households 24-hour access to piped water in Fall of 2017, but the initiative (originally proposed decades ago) isn’t without limitations.
Working alongside Environmental & Public Health Organization (ENPHO), a Nepali NGO driving innovative and community-based eco-technology development across the country, the study team conducted cognitive interviews and a systematic quantitative survey in order to explore experiences and perceptions of water insecurity in a densely populated urban setting. Qualitative interviews uncovered nuanced practices of water supplementation, particularly given the municipalities’ struggle to provide enough adequate water to every household.
Participants shared distress over micro-inequalities, where some neighborhood pockets never received the piped water promised to them by the government, as well as the unpredictability of when the water would come.
“Our piped water comes once every 6 days at 11pm. If we sleep through it, we miss water for almost two weeks. Sometimes it comes for 2 hours, sometimes 4, and sometimes it just doesn’t come.” – Mother, Nepal
The quantitative interviews elicited equally rich information regarding individual experiences with water shortage, innovative storage solutions for living in cramped urban spaces, and incredible resilience in the face of an unpredictable and insufficient water supply. The team’s incredible enumerators (pictured below), completed 263 household surveys. Every evening, after several hours of data collection in Kathmandu’s hot sun and, more often, its newly arrived monsoon, the enumerators brought back with them stories of ‘kalo paani’ (black water), quickly drying boreholes, and corrupted politicians thwarting certain households from accessing water.
We are incredibly grateful for the work of our study team. We are also indebted to the community participants who openly shared their experiences with water insecurity, providing a more robust understanding of issues related to water quality and access. In the coming months, we look forward to analyzing the data from these interviews.