Using local knowledge to improve water availability in Panchase, Nepal

Anu Adhikari
Published: 08 January 2021
Last edited: 08 January 2021
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Summary

Traditionally, the people living in the area around Panchase had natural water sources, i.e. ponds and water sources that provided water for the community, travelers, and wild and domesticated animals. These natural areas also provided ecosystem benefits including ground water retention and regeneration and habitat for many types of plants and animals, including certain trees with religious significance for the community. Development in recent years has obstructed the water sources for these ponds and natural sources; in some cases, ponds have been built over. Using locally available resources such as mud, stones, and slate, community members have fortified streambanks, cleared weed overgrowth, and removed debris around the water sources. They also planted vegetation with high water-retention and soil-holding capacities. These measures were designed using EbA principles, with an emphasis on utilising local resources, integrating local knowledge, and engaging local people.

Classifications

Region
South Asia
Scale of implementation
Local
Ecosystem
Agro-ecosystem
Agroforestry
Forest ecosystems
Rangeland / Pasture
Temperate evergreen forest
Tropical evergreen forest
Theme
Adaptation
Ecosystem services
Infrastructure maintenance
Sustainable livelihoods
Traditional knowledge
Water provision and management
Watershed management
Challenges
Drought
Erratic rainfall
Floods
Wildfires
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 6 – Clean water and sanitation
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 4: Sustainable production and consumption
Target 10: Ecosystems vulnerable to climate change
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Target 18: Traditional knowledge
Target 20: Mobilizing resources from all sources
Sendai Framework
Target 3: Reduce direct disaster economic loss in relation to GDP by 2030
Target 4: Reduce disaster damage to critical infrastructure and disruption of basic services, among them health and educational facilities, including through developing their resilience by 2030
(I)NDC Submission

Location

Parbat District, Gandaki Zone, Nepal | Harpan Khola Sub Watershed, Panchase (Panchase Protected Forest Area lies in the Kaski, Parbat, and Syangja districts)

Challenges

  • Disturbance and damage of traditional water resource infrastructure
  • Sedimentation and landslides 
  • Water shortages due to depletion of water resources
  • Degradation of water quality due to increasing anthropogenic activity within the periphery of the water resources
  • Labour shortage due to emigration of young people from the villages  
  • Disconnection and lack of coordination between community organizations  
  • Loss of biodiversity due to droughts
  • Degraded wetlands due to open grazing 
  • Erosion during the monsoon season due to poor road construction and unplanned trails. Shallow slope failure and debris flows result, leading to disintegration of the aquatic ecosystem. 
  • Low level of awareness about the ecological, social, and economic importance of water resources

Beneficiaries

  • Direct: 500 rural households (approx. 2500 people) living in the Harpan Khola Sub watershed
  • Indirect: Communities upstream and downstream from the Panchase Protected Forest

How do the building blocks interact?

Traditional knowledge about methods to increase water retention and infiltration exist in Panchase in the form of water ponds and water sources. This measure uses three building blocks – creating awareness about EbA (I), promoting green infrastructure (II), and reducing water runoff (III) – to address the water availability challenges faced by the community. The building blocks reinforce one other, thereby increasing effectiveness and sustainability. The integration of local and scientific knowledge in Building Blocks I and II ensures that the community is self-reliant in maintaining the ponds and water sources. The use of locally available materials increases the community’s confidence in its ability to afford and maintain the measure. The process of prioritising restoration sites facilitates local ownership of the project, as people feel empowered to make the changes they feel are most needed. Further, the religious significance of the ponds and the social benefit of communal resting spaces provide further motivation to maintain the ponds. Building Blocks I and II create an environment for the effective application of the third building block, which directly addresses an existing and recognized community need.

Impacts

Environmental Impact

 

  • Increased water infiltration, reduced rate and volume of water run-off from the watershed
  • Reduced water-related disasters, including soil erosion and landslides
  • Contribution to groundwater recharge and water sprouting downstream, especially during dry season 
  • Improved soil conditions, mainly due to increased soil moisture content
  • Increased vegetation, air quality, growth of trees and other species near water sources along the water catchment and downstream area 
  • Contribution to the conservation of both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems 
  • Promotion of a healthy environment
  • Reduced incidence of forest fires 

Social Impact 

 

  • Increased motivation to engage in agriculture and livestock production activities due to increased water availability
  • Creation of opportunities for irrigation and cultivation of agroforestry species, crops, and off-season vegetables, especially during dry season
  • Increased social cohesiveness 
  • Enhanced local cultural and religious importance of water ponds and rest areas
  • Reduced risk of landslides for local communities
  • Reduced losses as a result of forest fires

Economic Impact 

 

  • Contribution to ecotourism through increased natural beauty
  • Creation of job opportunities from agriculture and other on-farm activities 
  • Contribution to human health and nutrition 
  • Increased household incomes

Story

Sudipti Parajuli

People in Panchase have traditionally relied on ponds called Pokhari for their water needs. The Pokhari also have religious significance, and pipal trees (Ficus religiosa) were often planted around them and worshiped. Traditionally, communities built resting places called chautari around the ponds. These were often built near trekking trails, so travellers could rest. Villagers used chautari for their livestock and as community meeting areas. The waters of chautari are also significant for some cultural festivals such as the chhat festival in Terai and bala chaturdasi in the hilly areas of Nepal.

 

In his 70 years of life, Mr. Guman Singh Gurung has witnessed a lot of ecological and socio-economic changes in his community. The village now has a road, electricity, tap water, homestay businesses, and small hotels for tourists. However, there have also been some negative changes. People are emigrating from the villages and most of the agricultural land is abandoned. With increasing reliance on tap water, the ponds became neglected. Many were overgrown with weeds and the flow of water to others was obstructed by sedimentation from road construction. In addition, changing rainfall patterns, increasing temperatures, declining water resources, and invasive species are harming the ecosystem. Significant climatic and environmental changes have affected water availability and reduced soil water content, increasing the risk of forest fires. Rehabilitating community ponds and the sources of spring water that fill them helps address the issues that Mr. Gurung and other members of his community face. 

 

Combining science and local knowledge, technical experts and community members worked together to restore the ponds.  They used local materials such as stone, slate, mud, and bamboo for the restoration. Guman sees many benefits from the increased availability of water, including a diversity of livelihood opportunities such as off-season farming. These measures also help improve groundwater recharge, soil moisture, and water availability downstream and during the dry season, increasing the communities’ capacity to adapt to climate change.

Contributed by

Jaymee Silva

Other contributors

IUCN Nepal
IUCN Nepal