The Bagmati River Basin Improvement Project aims to improve water security and resilience to potential climate change impact in the Bagmati River Basin. The project will complement ongoing efforts of the Government of Nepal and civil society to improve water management and the river environment in the Bagmati River Basin (BRB). The project will invest in forming a river basin organization with adequate capacity and decision support systems for integrated water resources management (IWRM). It will finance the construction of upstream water storage, riverbed oxygenating weirs, riverbank beautification, and community initiatives to improve the river environment in Kathmandu Valley
The impact will be increased water security in the BRB. The outcome will be improved river health and flood management. The project is the first attempt in Nepal to apply the concept and principles of IWRM since its adoption under the 2005 National Water Plan.
The project focuses on priority issues selected by the basin stakeholders from the basin strategic investment road map. The road map is based on the 2009 Bagmati Action Plan and further consultations with basin stakeholders. The project has five outputs:
(i) Established systems and capacity for integrated and participatory river basin management. Activities include (a) provide legal and institutional strengthening for IWRM and formation of a river basin organization (RBO), (b) mobilize basin stakeholders, (c) build capacity for increasing RBO competence, (d) establish a central water resources information system including a decision support system and an operating water quality monitoring network, and (e) prepare a 15-year participatory integrated river basin master plan.
(ii) Improved riverbank environment in urban areas. Activities include (a) remove contaminated riverbed material; (b) construct weirs and provide phyto-remediation to enhance the river's self-cleaning capacity; (c) stabilize and beautify the riverbank; (d) mobilize, raise awareness, and build capacity of local government and communities for riverbank management and maintenance; and (e) collaborate with the private sector, which has expressed interest in setting up recreational businesses along the riverbanks through public private partnerships or finance maintenance as part of social corporate activities.
(iii) Increased water availability in the basin during the dry season and watershed conservation. Activities include (a) construct an 861,000 cubic meters (m3) Dhap dam and complete detail design of the 8 million m3 Nagmati dam, (b) provide rooftop rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge, and (c) implement upstream watershed management.
(iv) Functioning flood forecasting and early warning system for the Bagmati River Basin. Activities include (a) upgrade the existing flood forecasting system,
(b) install a flood early warning system, and (c) increase community awareness and build capacity for flood response.
(v) Efficient project management with effective stakeholder communication. Activities include (a) establish competent project management and project implementation units, (b) undertake timely procurement and disbursement, and (c) implement the project communication strategy and monitoring.
|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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.