Innovative steps towards a cleaner Nepal?

December 4, 2012 12:00 pm

While many of us find it easy to complain of the current rainy days that constitute the English autumn, rainwater is still an invaluable commodity in many world regions. Figures show that upwards of one billion people are in need of clean water, though many more suffer due to inadequate sanitation resulting in the spread of diseases such as cholera. With this knowledge in mind, steps have been taken to improve decision making in Nepal with regard to the supply of adequate water. Nepal Engineering College and Imperial College London have undertaken an innovative joint project aiming to inform and actualise water source improvements in three rural communities, Bhalakhalak, Sonbarshi and Chamar Tolia.
Studies were taken to determine the quality of the drinking water used by these communities – much of which was recognised as being unsanitary. As well as water testing, a ‘yes/no’ decision-tree questionnaire was sent to members of the societies, with the intention of gathering information on practices used to collect, treat and store water. The direst results came from the village of Sonbarshi. The survey revealed that 66 houses contained the village’s population of 528, 80% of whom survive on the equivalent of £1 a day. Furthermore, the shallow wells that held the available water were hampered by poor drainage, causing overflowing leading to the formation of stagnant pools in the village. This attracts insects and disease, both of which are observable within the community. During the monsoon season, diarrhoea becomes severe – a condition known to kill over 1.5 million per year worldwide. The striking results of the questionnaire were subsequently used to recommend further improvements in the sources of drinking water. It was revealed that 0 out of 58 households treated their water before consumption in Sonbarshi village and that 38 out of 58 reported diarrhoea.
The use of a yes/no decision-tree evaluation was able to gather wide spread responses from the Nepalese community and benefited from its simplicity. Users could navigate the easily understandable branches that would lead them ultimately to suggestions of a more practical method of gathering and storing water. The framework is intended to be further developed so that a finalised tree will be available on the project website, for more users to access. Furthermore, the project intends to remedy the lack of water treatment by introducing into households such cleaning mechanisms as chlorine drops and sand filters. In succeeding years, steps will be taken to adapt and use this same approach with regard to other relevant issues. Local governments will be informed of the results and kept up to date of the new methods by which water sanitation can be monitored and combated. Similarly, the knowledge gained is being taught to the communities through the Nepal Engineering College, where alternative sources of water are being recommended for use. Engineers from the College will begin work by developing and then putting in place solutions to water issues that have been recognised through the study.

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