Saili Tamang from Gurdung settlement in Dhunibesi town gets up early in the morning and goes down to Padheri stream to bring water home. It takes the 67-year-old almost an hour to reach the creek and another hour and a half to return home with the water boat.
“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 in several places,” Saili said. His daughter-in-law also accompanies him 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 difficulties despite repeated requests,” Saili said.
The situation of 34-year-old Sharmila Tamang is no different from that of Saili. In addition to working the field, collecting fodder for the domestic animals, preparing meals and taking care of 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, which is an hour’s walk away. Otherwise, I cannot do other household chores and work in the fields,” said Sharmila.
She brought home two barrels to collect rainwater. Sharmila uses rainwater for cooking and 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 from severe water shortages. There is a water tap in the village but it dries up with every monsoon.
The villagers had built a micro-hydropower project in the Patheri stream eight years ago. The electricity generated by the project is used to transport water from the stream to the village. But the tap water supply is interrupted every rainy season as the flooding of the river damages the reservoir, forcing 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 urban areas and markets, but people in several rural villages are still forced to drink water from the river due to the non-functioning of drinking water projects in the villages.
The constitution of Nepal defines access to drinking water as a fundamental right of citizens. However, residents of many rural villages have been denied this 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 the elderly, goes to the river to fetch water. The river water is used for drinking while the rainwater is used for cooking and other household chores,” said Gurdung resident Ganga Tamang. “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 raise livestock, says Ganga.
During each election season, candidates come to the village seeking votes and with promises to solve their drinking water crisis. But so far none of the candidates and authorities have done anything to solve their problem, villagers say.