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No more water bartering !

When an earthquake damaged a water source in Phulpingdanda of Sindhupalchowk four years ago, water access became more difficult for the community that had already been reeling under an acute water shortage.

A 27-year-old Shantila Tamang was pregnant when the earthquake struck. She used to live alone in her house while her husband worked outside the district to fend for the family. The height of complications for Shantila in gaining access to drinking water arose when the earthquake damaged the water source and the structure of her community.

For her, the arrival of Safaa Paani—a clean drinking water project supported by USAID and jointly implemented by SEBAC-Nepal and Janahit Gramin Sewa Samittee in Phulpingdanda—was a threshold for hope.

Four years after the implementation of the project in her village, Shantila shares her experience enthusiastically and the role it played in making a difference in her life and in the community.

“When the earthquake damaged all the water sources, we faced lots of difficulties. There was water in the remotest villages of our district, but I was not able to walk all the way. I was pregnant. I used to take my clothes to a river for washing."

Shantila shares an interesting water-sharing incident. “Water was very precious in those days. Neighbors were described as good or bad based on who offered or bartered water.  One evening my father-in-law came to my home to borrow water for cooking. Fortunately, I had borrowed one gallon of water from my neighbor because walking longer distance was not possible in the ninth month of my pregnancy. I was in a dilemma: to give or not to give water. If I had given him water, I would have nothing to drink. If I had not provided him with water, he would have been disappointed and would have gone hungry. Finally, I mustered courage and gave him half a gallon of water, that too, tacked on a repayment pledge,” she said.

The Safaa Paani project in Phulpingdanda has supported Shantila and her community to get access to safe drinking water by constructing a drinking water supply scheme. Also, it has helped them operate and maintain the scheme by providing technical support and by activating a community-based user group.

Now, community taps are providing water to 70 households that cover more than 300 population in Phulpingdanda. Women like Shantila can now fetch water within two minutes. This way, they have surplus time which they can dedicate to children’s education, gardening and other household activities.

“Finally, I can use water whenever I need without having to face the possibility of refusal and gross remarks from my neighbors. It is a huge relief from a worsening water scarcity situation. There has been a huge change in our lifestyle. We can live comfortably because of availability of water near our house. Our relations with neighbors have improved because there is no need to negotiate over water. We no longer have to visit our neighbors to borrow water and get caught in an unnecessary argument,” she added.