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DSC03591-min © Tom Gustin pour Action contre la Faim



Nepal’s water resources in the face of climate change

This lack of access to water has a major health impact on the population, with children dying every day from water-borne diseases linked to poor water quality and lack of sanitation and hygiene (UNICEF). 

In addition, climate change is exacerbating existing vulnerabilities, particularly access to water. Nepal is on the list of countries most vulnerable to climate change, and last year, the UN expressed particular concern about the country’s situation due to rapidly warming glaciers, with potentially devastating consequences for local communities and the global environmental balance. 




Access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation remains a major challenge for many rural communities. Inhabitants living far from infrastructure must travel long distances to access safe water sources, compromising their health and access to other basic services.

DSC03650-min © Tom Gustin pour Action contre la Faim
PNTX7193-min © Maryna Chebat pour Action contre la Faim
DSC04127-min © Tom Gustin pour Action contre la Faim


In response to these challenges, Action Against Hunger has been implementing water and sanitation programs to facilitate access to drinking water since the 2015 earthquake, severely affecting the districts of Nuwakot and Rasuwa in the Trishuli River valley north of Kathmandu. In addition to the many victims, this disaster caused considerable damage to water infrastructure, leading to an increased risk of water-borne diseases. 

Julien Eyrard, technical advisor for water, sanitation, and hygiene at Action Against Hunger, was among the first aid workers to arrive in Nepal a few days after the disaster: “Chaos reigned everywhere. Some people were trapped under the rubble. Others had lost their tools, livestock, and means of subsistence. As for water, the earthquake had a terrible impact on the hydrogeology of the region, causing water sources to move“. This situation has exacerbated food insecurity and increased the risk of malnutrition in the affected communities. “Hygiene promotion, such as hand washing with soap, helps prevent disease transmission. We have always worked to prevent undernutrition through projects involving access to water and hygiene,” adds Mr. Eyrard. 


Crisis of water governance in rural areas

In some rural areas, most communities use water from the same source. Sometimes tensions rise, especially when disadvantaged communities at the bottom of the social pyramid face difficulty accessing water. Aarati Bishwakarma lives in the village of Maane Gun and has seen the situation change: “Before, we used to fetch water from the lower part of the village. People would stop us from using the water, even if it were just to wash clothes. I believe it was to keep people of our caste away.” In Nepal, old beliefs persist about people belonging to the untouchable caste, according to which they can touch neither the food nor the water consumed by the higher castes. “We had no choice because we had to wash the children’s clothes. One day, we found the pipes blocked, and we were attacked by dogs. I was afraid to return there“.


DSC04926-min © Tom Gustin pour Action contre la Faim
PNTX7489-min © Maryna Chebat pour Action contre la Faim


Several villages in Nuwakot and Rasuwa are part of the project, which involves providing access to drinking water by building water networks and installing taps in front of every house. “When my son was very young, I couldn’t leave him alone. I used to take him to the water source, and while he slept, I would wash everything I needed. Now, everything is much easier. We can wash our clothes, cook our meals, and do everything right on our doorstep. Aarati can also use the water for her vegetable garden, which is green again. She saves money on food by growing her vegetables. “We also have free time. Instead of spending hours at the source, I can look after my goats or bathe my children,” smiles Aarati. 

The taps are installed in each house’s courtyard and connected to water meters to calculate the amount of water consumed per household. “The idea is not to pay for water, which is a common good, but to pay for the service of having water at home. This pricing is essential to ensure infrastructure maintenance and good governance in the long term,” explains Mr. Eyrard. 




Climate change is exacerbating this situation, with unpredictable variations in rainfall and prolonged droughts, further compromising the availability and quality of water for people. In addition, the risk of a moraine lake breaking up in Nepal is a real threat, potentially leading to devastating deluges and significant human and material losses. In the Udayapur district, Action Against Hunger and its local partner Sahara Nepal are promoting climate-resistant crops to improve living conditions for the local population. This approach is also part of the national plan to help areas prone to natural disasters. 

Signs are already visible in some areas, such as Koshi province. “Around 300 households depend on this forest as their main livelihood. But during the dry season, we can’t save our plants because of the lack of water. And during the rainy season, the river floods the whole area, and the flash floods destroy everything in their path“, says Kumar Ghimire, a resident of the Belaka-1 municipality. 

Increasingly frequent and intense periods of drought are devastating agriculture and the livelihoods of rural populations. Floods cause significant material damage, displace populations, destroy infrastructure, and disrupt economic activities. As part of the project run by Action Against Hunger and its local partner Sahara Nepal in the Udayapur district, promoting Kande Bash bamboo cultivation helps strengthen the soil and protect the land from flooding. 

Because of the drought, we’ve lost about 100 bamboos out of the 1,750 initially planted. We hope to save them, but we need water to revive them. Money is nothing; you can always earn it. But the green forest is priceless. 


NP - FSL - 2024 - © Kishor Sharma (52)-min © Kishor Sharma pour Action contre la Faim
NP - FSL - 2024 - © Kishor Sharma (57)-min © Kishor Sharma pour Action contre la Faim


While Nepal’s water crisis calls for governance reforms, investment in water infrastructure, and water conservation measures, climate change adaptation solutions must be implemented to ensure sustainable access to drinking water for all Nepalese.


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