Saili Tamang from Gurdung settlement in Dhunibesi Municipality gets up early in the morning and descends to the Padheri stream to bring home water. It takes nearly one hour for the 67-year-old to reach the stream and another one-and-a-half hours to return home with the water vessel.
“It is very difficult for me to carry the 20-litre container filled with water. But there is no alternative. I have to stop and rest at several places,” said Saili. Her daughter-in-law also accompanies her to fetch water from the stream every morning.
“Families in our settlement struggle every day to manage drinking water but the government is indifferent to our hardship despite repeated requests,” Saili said.
The situation of Sharmila Tamang, aged 34, is no different from Saili’s. On top of working the field, collecting fodder for domesticated animals, preparing meals and looking after the children, she also has to worry about managing water for her family.
“I have to get up before dawn to fetch water from the stream that is an hour’s walk away. Otherwise I cannot complete other household chores and work in the field,” said Sharmila.
She has brought home two drums to harvest rainwater. Sharmila uses the rainwater to cook food and for other household chores.
“But we have no alternative but to go to the stream to bring drinking water,” she said.
There are 68 households in Gurdung settlement and all of them are reeling under acute water shortages. There is a water tap in the village but it runs dry every monsoon.
The villagers had constructed a micro-hydropower project in Patheri stream eight years ago. The electricity generated by the project is used to lift water from the stream to the village. But the water supply to the tap is disrupted every rainy season as the floods in the river damage the reservoir, forcing the villagers to go to the stream to get drinking water.
The government has spent millions to implement several drinking water projects to supply water to the city areas and markets but people in several rural villages are still forced to drink river water due to the non-operation of drinking water projects in the villages.
Nepal’s constitution defines access to clean drinking water as a fundamental right of citizens. However, people in many rural villages have been denied the right for a long time. Despite the government’s ‘one house one tap’ campaign, consumers have been forced to live with water shortages for years due to non-implementation.
“Everyone from children to elderly goes to the river to fetch water. Water from the river is used for drinking while rain water is for cooking and other household chores,” said Ganga Tamang, a resident of Gurdung. “Children here sometimes have to miss school to fetch water from the stream.”
The water crisis has made it difficult for villagers to grow vegetables and rear cattle, Ganga says.
During every election season, candidates come to the village seeking votes and with promises of solving their drinking water crisis. But so far, none of the candidates and authorities have done anything to address their issue, the villagers say.