Nepal, Kathmandu: squatters find way to rid of river pollution

Until a year ago, life was like a nightmare for squatters of Narayan tole behind the Maharajgunj-based Kanti Children’s Hospital: [a] pungent smell emanated from the polluted Samakhusi River [and] the squatters [suffered from] diseases, including diarrhoea, eye shore and dysentery.

[T]he squatters sought help from […] Lumanti, an NGO working in the slums, Water Aid and UN-HABITAT, [who] contributed Rs. 90,000 and technical expertise. Two small wastewater treatment plants (septic tank with upflow bio-filters) were built with this assistance. […] Twenty-eight households of the area have linked their toilet sewage pipes with these tanks, which discharge only clean water into the river. The squatters use decomposed waste as fertiliser.

“Earlier, only a few of us had toilets in our households. We used to defecate out in the open at night. The handful of toilets had their drainage pipes linked with the river,” said Gita Devi Dhakal, one of the squatters.

[…] With Asian Development Bank funding, the department of Urban Development and Building Construction (DUDBC), under the Ministry of Physical Planning and Works (MoPPW), is constructing over 30 bigger wastewater treatment plants under the Urban and Environmental Improvement project (UNIP) in a number of cities.

[However], the bigger the plant, the more it costs. [S]mall [household] treatment plants [are cheaper and occupy little space].

“Every planner can learn a lesson from the initiative of the Narayan tole squatter community,” said Lajana Manandhar, executive director of LUMANTI. “If all households build small plants, then we can clean up the polluted rivers of Kathmandu without having to wait for donors.”

Source: The Kathmandu Post / NGO Forum, 02 Dec 2008

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