The Bagmati River Basin Improvement Project aims to improve water security and resilience to potential climate change impact in the Bagmati River Basin. It will build on the general public's desire to restore the river environment in the Kathmandu Valley and the Government's efforts to improve irrigation development and mitigate the impact of water-induced disasters in the middle and lower reaches of the basin. The Project adopts the principles of integrated water resources management (IWRM) and provides Nepal with its first opportunity to apply this key policy element since it has been adopted under the national water plan in 2005.
The Project's expected impact is to improve sustainable economic development and poverty reduction in the Bagmati River Basin. The Project outcome will focus on improving water security in the Bagmati River Basin. The expected outputs may include (i) effective integrated and participatory river basin management, (ii) an integrated river basin development master plan and action plan agreed by all stakeholders, (iii) an improved riparian river environment in the Kathmandu Valley, (iv) increased water availability in the basin during the dry season, and (v) reduced water-induced disaster impact on the basin communities.
The major investment components may include (i) stakeholder mobilization, awareness raising and integrated planning; (ii) IWRM focused institutional reform and capacity building; (iii) riparian river environment improvement that may include community/civil society based (a) awareness and education, (b) river training works, (c) river cleaning, (d) river side beautification including cultural heritage sites restoration; (iii) increased surface water availability (rain water harvesting and storage, catchment regeneration, irrigation rehabilitation and efficiency and natural wetland enhancement); and (iv) water-induced disaster mitigation that may include (a) river training works, (b) watershed regeneration, (c) sabo works, and (d) community-based flood early warning systems and adaptation programs. A project preparatory technical assistance (PPTA) will assess the detailed cost per component for the Project.
|Project Rationale and Linkage to Country/Regional Strategy
The Bagmati River holds a special place in the national culture. It is considered as a holy river and counts many cremation ghats and temples of great cultural value along its bank that attracts scores of Hindu devotees from all over the world who traditionally purify themselves in the holy Bagmati waters. The Bagmati River Basin also has great economic importance as it plays a crucial role in meeting the water supply requirement of the country's capital city and downstream communities, as well as in sustaining irrigated agriculture in the Kathmandu Valley and along the basin.
3. The rapid and unplanned expansion of Kathmandu City has put tremendous pressure on the water resources of the Bagmati River Basin. In the absence of appropriate sewage collection and waste water treatment plants, the river has become the main collector drain. Solid waste deposited on the river banks also further deteriorates the river environment. Rapid urbanization has put tremendous pressure on the valley water supply distribution. During dry season, around 80% of the Bagmati River flow is diverted for domestic use leaving very little flow for irrigation and other sectors including environment. As demand could not be met from surface water, a large part is supplied from the groundwater table. The quantity extracted is estimated to be 4 to 5 times higher than the natural recharge and has caused the water table to retreat by to 35 meters (m) in only 20 years. The situation is further aggravated by (i) the conversion of the recharge areas into residential areas, (ii) lowering river stream and sand mining leading to riverbed deepening, and (iii) upstream catchment degradation. As it exits the city, the river is biologically dead and made of heavily polluted sewage water that potentially endangers the downstream water users' health.
4. Aside from the problems inherited from Kathmandu, the middle reach of the basin with steep slopes and degraded watersheds is prone to severe landslides and floods which threaten both infrastructure and settlements, cause increased rural poverty and are the source of heavy sedimentation for the lower reach. In the lower reach, where the river enters the Terai plain, frequent floods and river bank erosion become the main threat to people's livelihoods. The 1993 flood alone claimed 789 lives, affected 30,200 people and caused tremendous damage to houses and public infrastructure. Similarly, potential exists to improve irrigation through the development of conjunctive groundwater use and more efficient irrigation technologies.
5. Competing and uncontrolled use of water in the basin has an increasing negative impact on its overall sustainable development. Plans to improve Kathmandu's water supply from the Bagmati River Basin water sources were developed without consideration for downstream users and environmental flow. Flood protection works and irrigation development are also planned in isolation of other sector requirements. Similarly, discharge of urban waste water effluent, groundwater extraction, sand mining, and solid waste disposal in the river are not regulated. The strong civil society movement and the public's general interest in the restoration of the Bagmati River is potentially a strong asset for improving many of these fundamental problems. Strangely however, they were little considered in the planning and design of past projects intending to address the Bagmati River problems and consequently the expected beneficiaries had little ownership in their successful implementation.
6. To assist the Government in applying the participatory IWRM approach, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved in 2010 TA7547-REG: Supporting Investments in Water Security in River Basins, the objective of which is to (i) build consensus of the basin stakeholders on the possible mandate and structure of a river basin organization (RBO), (ii) build the capacity of stakeholders, (iii) support the formation of a RBO, and (iv) review and expand the Bagmati Action Plan, approved by the Government of Nepal in 2002. The regional technical assistance is being undertaken to prepare the ground for the Bagmati River Basin Improvement Project (BRBIP) and the Kathmandu Valley Urban Environmental Improvement Project (KVUEIP) that are for approval in 2013.
7. BRBIP together with KVUEIP, which will focus on waste water management, will build on investments that already contribute to improving water security in the basin. These include (i) two ongoing ADB/Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) -financed projects: Loan 1820-NEP: Melamchi Water Supply Project and Loans 2058/2059-NEP: Kathmandu Valley Water Services Sector Development Project amounting to $331 million, and (ii) the ADB-financed $130 million Kathmandu Valley Water Supply Project for approval in 2011. Yet, while these projects focus on water supply and waste water management, BRBIP takes a broader integrated approach that aims to resolve the overall basin water governance issue and ensure more equitable water management and development between upstream/downstream communities, rural/urban communities or between sectors. It will not only introduce IWRM and basin planning but will also address core rural water development issues and complement efforts to improve the river environment.
8. The Project is consistent with ADB's Nepal country partnership strategy, which aims to support Nepal's peace and development aspirations by promoting the four pillars: (i) broad-based and inclusive economic growth, (ii) inclusive social development, (iii) governance and capacity building, and (iv) climate change adaptation and environmental sustainability. The project is included in the Nepal country operations business plan (COBP) 2011-2013.