Case Study

Climate Resilience Of Watersheds, Nepal

Case Study Summary The BCRWME project aimed to ensure a reliable water supply for domestic and agricultural use for about 45,000 households. At completion, the project improved water management and storage practices and works to protect the areas around water sources to increase the volume of clean water in 1,251 settlements benefitting over 51,000 households. This included interventions to protect springs and augment groundwater recharge within their watersheds, building water collection ponds, plantations, erosion protection, and educating communities on water conservation practices.
Sector
          WATER
Key Topics •       Community engagement
•       Capacity building
•       Gender equality
•       Supporting livelihoods
Project Owner Government of Nepal’s Department of Forests and Soil Conservation (DFSC)
Project Start/Completion Jan 2014 – Feb 2021
Location Nepal
Community Impacted Rural
Vulnerable Groups Impacted Women and disadvantaged groups, indigenous people
Climate Hazards Mitigated Water stress
Case Study Provided by Asian Development Bank

The BCRWME project aimed to ensure a reliable water supply for domestic and agricultural use for about 45,000 households. At completion, the project improved water management and storage practices and works to protect the areas around water sources to increase the volume of clean water in 1,251 settlements benefitting over 51,000 households. This included interventions to protect springs and augment groundwater recharge within their watersheds, building water collection ponds, plantations, erosion protection, and educating communities on water conservation practices.

About the Project

The BCRWME project was implemented in the watersheds of Nepal’s lower basins of the West Seti and Budi Ganga rivers (tributaries of the Karnali river basin) in 108 former village development committees of six districts of Sudurpashchim Province.[1]

The project intended to improve climate resilience in Nepal’s mountain communities through improved access to more reliable water resources for communities in selected climate-vulnerable mountain watersheds.[2] The project had four outputs: (i) Participating communities have improved catchment management and new or improved water storage infrastructure; (ii) Communities and government manage water and land in an integrated and inclusive manner within watersheds; (iii) Knowledge- based approaches for integrated water and land management and improved water reliability and accessibility in the wake of climate change adopted by government; and (iv) Project management support provided.

The major investment was for the implementation of 108 subprojects consisting of small civil works and catchment restoration works. The civil works consisted of construction of domestic and irrigation water supply and storage infrastructures, including spring protection works. Catchment restoration works included plantations, slope and landslide stabilisation works, and capacity building for effective watershed management.

The subprojects were identified in a highly participatory approach through extensive engagement with various development committees and community groups. The proximity with the local levels insured overlap with other similar interventions were avoided, while complementary support could be planned.

Achieved Outcomes

Social

The project sought to target disadvantaged communities, which have fewer reliable water sources, and to reduce the time spent by women collecting drinking water.[3] In response, the project (i) ensured that the voice of women, Dalit, and disadvantaged groups would be heard in public meetings on subproject selection; (ii) reduced women’s and children’s time for collecting water through improved domestic water and irrigation infrastructure; (iii) ensured representation of women and disadvantaged groups in the committees responsible for planning and implementing subprojects; (iv) improved the capacity of communities to conserve soil and water, equity in domestic water sharing, and irrigation through capacity building; and (v) included women, Dalit, and disadvantaged youth in technical and vocational training programmes.

At completion, 51,278 households had access to improved domestic and irrigation water sources, exceeding the initial target. Similarly, availability of irrigation water during the dry season was assessed to increase to 0.75 litres per second per hectare in the project area. Domestic water collected during the dry season increased by 50% from the baseline on average, and the time spent by women and children collecting domestic water was reduced by 73% (by 0.75–4.8 hours per day) during the dry season on average.

The project supported both the communities and the government to manage water and land in an integrated and inclusive manner within watersheds. All participating communities were involved in a phased cycle of training and capacity building so that the knowledge they develop in integrated and inclusive watershed management could be used to apply best practice. To strengthen the public sector’s capacity to manage watersheds more effectively, the project invested in tertiary education that benefitted 54 people in the project area, developed a watershed management planning system, and delivered various training on watershed management which benefitted 711 government participants. Similarly, a total of 5,168 community-level participants benefitted from the project-sponsored training on watershed management.

Environmental

The environmental management plans included catchment restoration and plantation on about 2,300 hectares, bioengineering works, and construction of gabion walls for control of soil erosion; social fencing was implemented as planned.

The project has led to several environmental benefits that could not be quantified. The construction of recharge ponds and reforestation activities may have controlled surface run-off leading to better percolation and groundwater recharge, retained fertile topsoil, and stabilised slopes and gullies from erosion and landslides.

Economic

The project supports the livelihoods of the project beneficiaries through gains in agricultural outputs, increase in cropping intensity, and time saved on fetching drinking water and fodder collection to feed cattle. The households usually collect fodder daily from the forest; the project supported fodder species plantations near beneficiary households to reduce time spent on fodder collection. In one of the settlements supported by the project, farmers from 28 households in Ganeshpur village development committee (currently Ganyabdhura rural municipality) sold 36 tons of cauliflower, 36 tons of bell pepper, 5 tons of cabbage, and 1 ton each of chili and soyabean in 2021, and they reported additional annual incomes of NRs300,000–NRs700,000 (around $3,000 – $7,000) as a result of the irrigation pond built by the project.

Enhancing the resilience of natural systems

The project contributed to enhancing the resilience of watersheds through direct interventions such as plantations, bioengineering, construction of check dams and gabion walls to control landslides, and also through capacity building interventions. New plantations were done on more than 2,300 hectares. Brush layering covered 2.5 km, and live fencing covered almost

12.0 km.[4] To improve groundwater percolation, 11,230 recharge pits and 157 recharge ponds were constructed. Landslide protection measures included the construction of 6,357 gabion walls. On the capacity building side, more than 5,100 local community members (44%) participated in the project-sponsored watershed management training, which focused on water conservation and soil management.

Similarly, the project promoted the concept of ‘community fencing’ where villagers imposed bans on grazing in vulnerable slopes and around their spring source. The project also provided training to government officials involved in watershed management, and developed a geographical information system based on a watershed management planning system.

 

Number of vulnerable people made more resilience by this project

318,208

Notes

[1] – In 2015, Nepal adopted a new constitution and transitioned to a federalised system. The former village development committees—the lowest administrative units—were reorganised into rural municipalities and municipalities. In the project area, the 108 village development committees are now within 8 municipalities and 16 rural municipalities.

[2] – 2013. Report and Recommendation of the President to the Board of Directors: Proposed Administration of Grants Nepal: Building Climate Resilience of Watersheds in Mountain Eco Regions. Manila.

[3] – ibid.

[4] – Government of Nepal, Ministry of Forest and Environment. 2020. Project Completion Report for Building Climate Resilience of Watersheds in Mountain Eco-Regions Project.

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