Nepal villagers get water with sun's help

Nepal villagers get water with sun's help

Thursday, 21 March 2002: Life took a turn for the better two months ago for the people of Humin, a small village in western Nepal's district of Palpa. Thanks to a UNDP supported project, villagers are benefiting from a new solar pumping system, bringing them hitherto scarce drinking water.

Until then, women had to wake up before daybreak to fetch water for drinking, cooking, and planting. That took them more than two hours daily, maneuvering down a steep and slippery slope to the water source, then climbing up the same trail with the added load.

A UNDP programme in the district responded to the villagers' search for an alternative water source. After conducting a feasibility study of a solar pump, UNDP hired technicians and experts who installed the system, then trained community groups on how to maintain it.

The change has been obvious. Villager Deumaya Rasaili says: "I used to suffer from back, chest and lower abdominal pains carrying the pot up and down. Sometimes arguments and fights would break out among the women who gathered there to be the first one to fill the pot. Now it hardly takes me 10 minutes to come back with a pot of water and cook for my husband and children. I am happy that my children can go to school on time and even my husband gets something to eat before he goes to work."

As the solar panels are exposed to light, a machine fitted inside a tank connected to the source, starts pumping water to the collection tank up in the village. Taps have been fitted near the collection tank where women line up their pots to collect water. In Humin, 62 households benefit from the service.

Humin lies 115 metres above the water source. Villagers can get maximum results from the solar pump at this height as the pump works up to 200 metres. The pump, which works even during cloudy days, delivers around 5,000 to 8,000 litres of water per day.

"This is a big thing for the villagers," says Humin's chairperson Bhim Bahadur Saru. "It has made life easier, especially for the women. We had tried to bring water to the villagers many times in the past, but nothing could be done as the village did not have any permanent source of water."

The system costs about US$10,000, of which $6,500 was covered by a government grant. The rest was financed by UNDP and the villagers, who also contributed their labour. The villagers have also established a consumer group to look after the upkeep of the system, further enhancing their sense of ownership.