In light of worsening contamination and ineffective government regulation, some villages in rural Nepal are taking water regulation and allocation into their own hands. The Nepali system of water use has not moved in the direction of water privatization, as in many other countries, but has instead relied upon regulation by village councils and prominent members of communities that are economically tied by their collective ability to produce food and use drinking water. All water resources are publicly owned, regardless of “origin, place, mode of use, nature of water resources and management system.”
Because of the abundance of water in this Himalayan state, conflict resolution in the legal system has taken a back seat to community cooperation. Considering the statistic from the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) that nearly 80 percent of the Nepali population lives in rural areas, and that past government commitments to realize the people’s water rights have often failed to translate into action, it is the responsibility of small village leaders to ensure adequate water access to the members of their communities. Although the traditional Nepali water rights of this Himalayan country have been based on top to bottom runoff and water-sharing, the system is under stress as pollution from growing industrial and urban areas is affecting the ground water, and competition for the poorly managed resource is growing. The Water Aid in Nepal Publication of 2012 calls for “strengthening legal frameworks on water source ownership to avoid conflicts caused by misunderstandings around who owns a water source,” yet to what extent would policy changes actually improve the quality of water in small villages?
At the HASERA Farm in Patalekhet, Nepal, Govinda Sharma and his family teach visitors and community members that sharing water and information resources with the entire village is a foundational part of creating a progressive farming community and future eco-village. Govinda Sharma grew up in the region, and acquired degrees in agriculture in both Nepal and the Netherlands. Since his return to Nepal, he and his wife have worked to improve access to resources and farming techniques in his home village through permaculture courses, the creation of a women’s support group, and water allocation techniques.
The village of Patalekhet shares water resources and is moving in the direction of Govinda’s dream for a permaculture-based, pesticide-free, sustainable eco-village.
In Nepal, Himalayan home to the third-largest water reservoir, inefficiency in policy and infrastructure is creating an unnecessary scarcity. It is also, however, leading to an improved system of cooperation reflective of traditional rural values. In light of the government’s inaction, cooperation in managing resources seems to be the natural choice in small rural villages like Patalekhet.