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Water Borne Disease a Major Health Problem in Nepal
Up to $2 billion is needed to improve conditions, according to a recent report
Dambaru Ballab Kattel (Dambaru)     Print Article 
Published 2007-06-12 07:36 (KST)   
Nepal has the poorest drinking water and sanitation for its population in South Asia even has richer in fresh water resources. Quality of drinking water has a major issue. Large percentage of drinking water contains bacterial contamination. A fecal Coliform bacteria is the major reason for poor quality water in Nepal.

"Water borne disease is transmitted through contaminated water, several bacterial, protozoal and viral water borne disease have posed serious public health problem in Nepal," said Tista Prasai, Scientific Officer, Environment and Research Division, Nepal Academy of Science and Technology, NAST. "The drinking water supply in most of the rural areas and municipalities are usually inadequate in terms of overall coverage."

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Out of the total population of Nepal, only 16 percent have access to safe drinking water.

"Potable water should be colorless, odorless, taste less, free from harmful chemicals and pathogenic microorganisms and usable for domestic purposes but unfortunately we have found our drinking water sources are not free from contamination, through the studies," said Dr. M.R. Chhetri, Assistant Professors, Nepal Medical College, Teaching Hospital.

According to recent report, Nepal Country Environment Analysis of Winrock International, diarrhea, intestinal worms, gastritis and jaundice are the top five water borne disease in Nepal. These diseases are prevalent in both urban and rural areas throughout nation.

Report stated that diarrhea, intestinal worms and gastritis are most prominent in the mountains; typhoid and jaundice cases have been recorded more in the hills.

The government claims 82 percent coverage of drinking water supply. According to a Nepal Living Standard Survey of 2003/4, piped water only serves 44 percent of the population.

But less than 3 percent of the poorest have access to piped source of water. Some 25 percent have access to piped source of water outside the houses. The rest of the poorest 72 percent depend on unsafe drinking water, according to Winrock report.

"To improve our drinking water quality, management and manner are the two important factors, there also should be a community level participation because we have lacked both," Chhetri added.

In Nepal more than 40 percent of people live under the poverty line.

According to report the population most affected by poor water supply, poor quality water and poor sanitation is children.

Population below five years of age is the most vulnerable to diarrhea diseases and increasing trend of such cases has been witnessed in the last three years. In one-year age group the infant mortality rate is 64 per thousand in Nepal.

Inadequate protection of water source areas, open defection in water sources, poor protection of waterways, poor maintenance leading to cross leakage of sewers of water pipes in urban areas are some of the main cause of bacterial contamination.

Kathmandu is an ideal example. According to reports of Department of Health Services, there were 2,332 cases of typhoid, 18,611 cases of diarrhea disease, 9,322 cases of intestinal worm's, 543 cases of jaundice and infectious hepatitis in the year 2004 and 2005.

"Water shortage is the major cause of water borne disease there is scarcity of water not only in the rural areas also the urban areas because there is not alternative resources, almost people depends on ground water," said Dr. Narayan Prasad Upadhyaya, Technical Advisor, Environment Public Health organization, ENPHO. "Due to lack of solid waste management and leakage of sewers, the ground water contamination has a problem in urban and arsenic problem in terai region."

According to recent studies of NAST, more than 90 percent groundwater of Kathmandu valley is contaminated with coliform bacteria.

"Awareness is also an important tool to reduce the water borne disease, it's not only the government's responsibility, we can play an important role, but there is a need to change our mentality," Dr. Chhetri said. "We can reduce the disease if we take some precaution before drinking water, treatment is important method, cleaning of the pot, boiling, chlorination, flirtation are simple technique for the treatment."

According to reports of the Nepal Living Standard Survey, in Nepal 39 percent of households have ready access to toilets, 12 percent have access to sanitary systems and 8 percent have access to proper garbage disposal facilities.

At present, only around 5 percent of government expenditure is made in the water and sanitation sectors of which 17 percent remained unspent in the last year, according Winrock report.

Various estimates have suggested that to improve the quality of drinking water and sanitation for Nepalese there is need to invest US$2 billion.

©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Dambaru Ballab Kattel

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