Springs in the mid-hills of Nepal
CASE STUDY • Shahriar Wahid, ICIMOD
policies that focus on enhancing the capacities of all stakeholders and promoting a culture of conservation. Development policies should be framed along the lines of the much cheaper ‘learning by doing’ grassroots civic science action research method, merging science with community knowledge. Research needs to be continued to establish firmer linkages between local hydrogeology and recharging ponds, as well as to improve spring water flow and management. Springs are mostly found around a hill slope or ‘water tower’. They can be relatively short-lived, providing water for a certain period after the monsoon when the groundwater levels are high, or perennial if fed from a level below the dry season water table. The precise relationship between precipitation/recharge and actual extraction rates is unknown in most parts of the HKH, but experiments have shown that it is possible to increase the life of a spring by increasing the recharge rate during the monsoon through the construction of pits and ponds and by improving vegetation cover.
The springs that flow in the mid-hills of the Nepal are critical to the survival of communities, as streams and rivers often lie far below hill settlements and the cost of carrying water by hand or pumping uphill is prohibitively high. These springs are fed by groundwater, which accumulates in underground aquifers during the monsoon. But many are now drying up, threatening a whole way of life. Increasing temperatures and rainfall variability risk pushing the drying of springs further. The loss of springs leads to increased domestic drudgery and stress for those whose livelihoods are based on farming. Loss of water can be a significant push factor in the outmigration of rural labour and youth, especially men, from the mid-hills, and there are all-too-frequent reports in the media of entire villages being abandoned due to lack of water. The physical aspects of spring hydrology are still poorly understood and insufficiently documented, as are the social science aspects related to changing water use. Recent ICIMOD studies suggest
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