Waterspouts are widely distributed over Kathmandu Valley, as Mallas ruled here during their reign, which is one of the valuable contributions to the history of Nepalese architecture itself. UN-Habitat, 2008 describes the potential of waterspouts to supply water with good quality and quantity throughout a year, which was possible due to the maintenance of state canals, ponds, springs and recharge areas. But today, due to the alarming environmental degradation and massive forest exploitation caused by drastic population increase, these water spouts are left with a great stress and have been gradually drying up. It is because of the depletion of the ground water table, destruction of state canals and concretization of recharge areas by houses. Many conservation experts have been giving their efforts on preserving them, but still a lot has to be done. The Alok Hiti Conservation and Drinking Water Committee is one of them which have been involved in preserving historical stone spouts and even boosting up water supply to the people. A research shows that among 212 stone spouts in Kathmandu valley, 40% have already dried and 21% have significant less flow rate of water.
Much earlier, Mallas developed traditional “Hitis”, “Dharas” and “Dhunge dharas” which are well documented by scholars. These are interconnected with the underground water channels. The channeling of water source and the “dharas” is complicated. Usually, the dharas have been seen to be placed at a lower altitude and sources at higher land so that the water flow remains constant. The sources of water for these dharas are large water reservoirs like ponds and lakes. These waterspouts are beautifully carved with water deity; crocodile head or a serpent head represents the carrier of Goddess Ganga. Waterspouts’ placement is also governed by social and religious aspects. Most of the people were involved in agriculture whose agricultural land used to be located at a lower land. Mallas were strong believer of Hinduism and follow Gods and Goddesses so they placed Dhunge Dharas in low land where the people after their work in their field, before entering their residential zone can wash their hands or take a bath in a sense of purifying themselves, believes this prevent from evil entering their home. This can also be predicted because there always lies a temple in the entry to the settlement. Thus Malla settlement can be observed to be located at a higher land.
Dhunge dharas are simply channeled waterspouts which extracts water from a source usually a shallow aquifers and springs known as “Agah” which are recharged by precipitation and water canals (Kulos). The evolution of “Kulos” dates back to the time when Dhunge Dhara was invented. These were made for the community based management of water flow and distribution in form of canals for optimum use of water. “Pani Ghatta” is one of the traditional means of rural technology found in Nepal which used the water from canals for household activities like cereal grinding, oil extraction, etc. It utilizes the motion of the running water of the canal to run a turbine and hence to produce centripetal force for grinding and also helps to produce electricity for rural areas. Nowadays, improved water mills have replaced such traditional mills.
Today, many of such historical natural water sources have been destructed due to the rapid urbanization and replacement of these by random houses and other types of buildings. Few institutions are seen in preserving these historical water conduits and all but we, all Nepalese people should be alert about the fact that they are our identity and they depicts our culture and uniqueness which defines our country around the globe. We should feel these entities like our own property and preserve them as well as encourage others to do the same. Failure in this activity has not only dismantled that precious tangible heritage but even has created hazardous condition of water scarcity. Most of the people having their shelters in urban areas face problem of drinking water, either they have to boil or purify the tap water or buy water. Nepal being second richest country in water resources, people are facing such problems. This is due to the lack of proper planning of shelter, rapid depletion of forest and more importantly the breakage of channels of water conduits below the surface of land due to concreting of footing of various buildings.
However, various plans for water supply for modern urban cities have been initiated with the establishment of various national policies. Rural Water Supply and Sanitation National Policy 2060 (2004) and Rural Water supply and Sanitation National Strategy 2060 (2004) has set a target to provide safe, reliable and affordable water supply with basic sanitation facilities to cent percent of the population on Priority basis basically targeting the backward people and ethnic groups. It has also visionary plans for reducing the water-borne diseases and also to save time and labor of people to fetch the water from a farther source. It has basically focused on massive renovation, rehabilitation, improvement and expansion works of existing system and increase the quality of service.
Likewise, Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Policy 2066 (2009) addresses the need of an umbrella policy to achieve coherent, consistent and uniform approaches of development of sector in urban areas. It addresses nation’s urban water supply and sanitation challenges and provides important insights for the development of the Policy. Some of the projects run under this policy are Small Towns Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Project (STWSSSP), Kathmandu Valley Water Supply Sector Development Program (KVWSSSP), the Urban Environment Improvement Project (UEIP) and the Integrated Urban Development Projects (IUDP).
Major challenges faced during the above mentioned projects were the lack of gender equity and social inclusion. Schools toilets were not user friendly for girls and differently able people. It was even seen that some part of the country takes toilet facilities as a social taboo for menstruating and postnatal women and Dalits. Another challenge was the absence of demarcation of catchment area of water supply sources. Surface and ground water gets polluted due the absence of adequate and effective sewerage and sanitation service. Also an unclear policy and laws delays approval of concerned authorities in most genuine cases for locating water supply and sanitation facilities in forests, national parks and wildlife conservation areas is a sector which needs to be rechecked.