Nepal Cities: Clean and Healthy Urban Development

Bharatpur in Chitwan is one municipality in Nepal that is taking steps to improve the urban environment, making the city more climate-resilient in the process.

Bharatpur is one of Nepal’s fastest growing municipalities. Engineer Bhoj Kaudel of the city’s planning department sees this trend as an opportunity for his native city to become one of Nepal’s key urban centers.

“If we can develop good services here, why would people need to move to Kathmandu?” he says.

Attracting people to live and work in such secondary cities takes pressure off congested Kathmandu, spreading economic development more evenly across the country.

In early 2000, Bharatpur was on the track to unplanned urban sprawl. Migrants were settling on the riverbanks in unsafe and unsanitary conditions. Wastewater from these and other settlements was flowing into the Narayani River, polluting the fresh water flowing down from the Himalayan Mountains. Housing construction was spreading in every direction around the city center, causing the traditional water supply to dry up. Drainage problems in the flood season were getting bad.

With a little help

These growing pains were the reason that Bharatpur was selected as one of the sites for ADB’s Urban and Environmental Improvement Project, which started in 2005. The project promoted sustainable urban development through better municipal planning and upgrading of infrastructure for clean water supply, drainage, and sanitation.

“Bharatpur is an example of better urban planning but we need to scale it up as many of Nepal’s secondary towns and cities are expanding at a rapid pace.”

– Laxmi Sharma, senior project officer for ADB’s urban sector in Nepal

With ADB’s support the municipality transformed the city’s riverside into a green space with a cement embankment that protects the residential land from erosion and provides steps down to the river’s edge.

“We used to be afraid of a landslide during heavy rains” says a mother of two who is pleased with these changes “Now our houses are secure and we can easily get to the river to wash clothes and for bathing.” The personal hygiene classes also convinced her and her neighbors to use the latrines that were provided by the project. The latrines are connected to a reed bed water treatment plant that prevents contaminants from draining into the river below.

The project created a Sewerage User Committee to inform people about how the water treatment system can make the city cleaner and prevent disease, especially during the rainy season. “People are not used to this type of system and we have to convince them,” says committee chair Bhadra Narayna Piya.

Better urban planning

Bharatpur’s municipal plan implemented many needed improvements: clean water supply, drainage, wastewater treatment, reinforced riverbanks, and green spaces.

“Bharatpur is an example of better urban planning but we need to scale it up as many of Nepal’s secondary towns and cities are expanding at a rapid pace,” says Laxmi Sharma, senior project officer for ADB’s urban sector in Nepal.

These improvements are also a first step to making the city more climate-resilient. Protecting the poor populations that settle on riverbanks will become more essential as climate change intensifies disasters. Preserving clean water by treating wastewater is becoming more and more urgent as climate change threatens water supply. More analysis on exactly how climate change will impact cities like Bharatpur is essential for Nepal to make choices about the types of water supply and wastewater treatment facilities, or which construction materials will best stand up to future climate conditions.

Adapting to climate change is a necessity. And, as Bharatpur Municipality has shown, tackling this problem can go hand in hand with building cleaner, healthier, and safer cities for Nepal’s growing urban population.