Nepal’s green sanitation progress fails to meet its commitments

By Laxman Datt Pant

Nepal’s green sanitation progress fails to meet its commitments

Although Nepal was declared to be ‘open defecation free’ (ODF) in September last year, the country’s attempts to implement green sanitation have failed to meet the commitments developed as part of its climate change policies and plans. A growing population and ineffective management strategies remain major obstacles to addressing and managing fecal sludge and wastewater thereby escalating the exploitation of natural resources. Furthermore, Nepal has developed an ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda in relation to green growth intervention targeting a 95% access rate to piped water and improved sanitation. Regrettably, Nepal has yet to rewrite its national climate and energy policy objectives as per the Paris Agreement which was ratified by Nepal on October 6, 2016 and was intended to be the key driver for green growth.

A report by the Asian Development Bank states that recycling of municipal solid waste in Nepal was stated to be 0% compared to a rate of 1.5% in low-income countries and 4.1% in lower-middle-income countries.

Nepal has also shown its commitment to take action to counter climate change by adopting SDG number 13 that aims to mobilize resources to address the needs of developing countries to both adapt to climate change and invest in low-carbon development. Although Nepal has allocated US$360 million for water supply and sanitation projects for the fiscal year 2020/21, the three tiers of government in Nepal have yet to introduce and integrate the plans and actions necessary to achieve green sanitation and sustainable natural resource management with the aim of meeting the SDG call for climate action.

Interestingly, the initiatives promoted by two intergovernmental agencies embrace the promotion of green sanitation mainly by the research and regulatory and policy support offered to the government of Nepal. The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) has contributed towards knowledge-based hands-on research and policy implementation through its Resilient Mountain Solutions Initiative (RMS). The ICIMOD provides knowledge and technical background to the Government of Nepal to enable rural municipalities across the country to overcome the main challenge of the upscaling and widespread uptake of solutions relating to green sanitation.

The ICIMOD is addressing this challenge by working with partners to demonstrate and pilot mountain-specific gender-responsive solutions, generating scientific evidence for valuable solutions and sharing good practices at all levels. The pilot villages in Nepal have been developed into learning hubs mostly spearheaded by women’s groups. A multi-stakeholder platform has been created with the involvement of local government, practitioners, civil society, and academia for co-developing solutions to make the Godavari landscape clean and green. The RMS initiative also supports community-based RMS Knowledge Parks in the Kavre district.

Viewing the green sanitation practices as very encouraging, Dr. Sanjeev Bhuchar, ICIMOD’s Water and Air Specialist said, “Most practices like wastewater harvesting ponds, improved cattle sheds, liquid fertilizer, improved composting, farmer groups, mobile SMS based advisories are promoted within ICIMOD’s green initiatives.”

Hundreds of farmers are benefiting from a package of these practices by cultivating safe vegetables for all year round consumption and income, he added.

Similarly, the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) is a treaty-based intergovernmental organization that strengthens the actions of government institutions mainly by improving the regulatory environment and financing at all levels to support the implementation of green growth policies and plans. It is unfortunate to note that sanitation in Nepal has not been assessed from a climate change perspective thereby disregarding the market-driven approach in the sector. The GGGI is working closely with the Ministry of Water Supply and the Ministry of Forest and Environment to address this gap through a Green Sanitation Services Program (GSSP). This is designed to ensure the sustainability of fecal sludge management that mainly supports the policy level interventions to achieve green sanitation services by demonstrating climate friendliness and drawing the attention of the private sector. As it is still in the preparatory phase, current activities are concentrated on mainstreaming green sanitation within the government structure.

Underlining the significance of green sanitation in the context of Nepal, Luna Keshari Kansakar, Sanitation Officer at GGGI Nepal, sees the sector as being able to enhance financial flow and says, “Green sanitation is crucial for the sector because it imparts resilience from a climate and sustainability point of view.”

According to her, green sanitation is imperative since it addresses SDG 6, (Clean Water and Sanitation) by advocating safe sanitation, SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) by advocating for pollution control key indicators for sustainable cities, and SDG 13- Climate Action by advocating climate-smart sanitation services.

sanitation in NepalSince green sanitation practices improve terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, ecosystem services and are advantageous for biodiversity, it is high time that communities conserved natural resources to enable them to increase their income and thus both to move out of poverty and respond to climate change. The government and key stakeholders should also focus on adequate green sanitation approaches such as wastewater collection and treatment, toilet facilities, and solid waste disposal. To protect the health and wellbeing of the people, one of the measures to reduce any threats is the development of resilient green sanitation.

With the aim of expanding access to community-managed water supply and sanitation in twenty municipalities, the Ministry of Water Supply is executing a US$178.5 million project titled ‘Urban Water Supply and Sanitation (Sector) Project (2018-2014)’ the cost of which, US$130 million, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is financing.

View current funding opportunities for sanitation projects in Nepal on the DevelopmentAid platform.