Majority of the people in Nepal still do not have access to safe drinking water. The urban centres often face an acute shortage of drinking water as the government-owned agency is not able to meet the growing demand. As a result, the water crisis is getting acute every year in the urban areas, including the Kathmandu Valley.
The problem worsens during the dry season as water supply is less than half of the total demand. As a result, people have to turn to other sources of water like pumping underground water and using traditional sources. The rural areas, especially in the hilly areas, are also facing a similar problem. In some areas, people have to walk for hours to fetch water.
The problem is relatively less serious in the Terai as people mostly use groundwater for all purposes. But people in the Terai have been facing other kinds of problems which are of a more serious kind. This is related to the quality of water. It has been found that the groundwater in most areas is not safe for drinking. In many parts of the Terai districts, the ground water has been found contaminated by arsenic - a substance that is highly hazardous to human health.
If consumed for a long time, the arsenic is likely to cause cancer to human beings. But the people there are compelled to consume arsenic contaminated water due to lack of other sources. Similarly, the water in the hilly areas is also not safe for drinking. Even in the Kathmandu Valley, piped water is not safe to drink without proper treatment. But many people are not health conscious and drink without any kind of treatment and purification. As a result, people often suffer from many waterborne diseases especially during the summer season.
Health experts estimate that more than 60 per cent of the people suffer from waterborne diseases in Nepal. It has, thus, been a great challenge for the government to provide safe drinking water. In view of this need, the government has set the target of providing potable drinking water to all people in the country. This programme is under its plan to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the United Nations. The donor agencies have also extended support in the campaign to provide safe drinking water in Nepal.
Although the government has announced it will ensure safe piped water to all people, the progress is slow. Water is a basic commodity for human survival. Thus, providing safe water should be the prime responsibility of the state. The government should launch a nationwide programme effectively so that people get not only adequate water but hygienically safe water as well especially now that people are willing to pay, and pay good money, for water.