Nearly 30 million people populate this little patch of earth we know as Nepal, tucked in between the Terai lowland plains and Mount Everest in the Himalayas and bordered by giants India and China. Nepal has a rich geography. The mountainous north has eight of the world’s ten tallest mountains, including the highest point on Earth, Mt Everest, called Sagarmatha in Nepali.

The fertile and humid south is heavily urbanised as years of instability and conflict in the region has led to a wide scale migration of people from rural to urban areas.  This has put added pressure on already overloaded water and sanitation services in the urban areas.  What water supplies are available are often polluted and in some areas naturally occurring arsenic causes a contamination problem.  According to government statistics, more than 4.4 million people in this Himalayan nation do not have regular access to safe drinking water in rural and urban areas, be it via piped water, wells, rainwater or bottled water.  Many people spend up to five hours per day fetching water, which is often polluted or contaminated by Arsenic, from far off rivers.

A third of Nepalese live below the poverty line and about 33% of all deaths in Nepal are of children under five, and half of these are due to diarrhoea. Only 31% of the country has sanitation coverage, leading to widespread open defecation.

“With water sources drying up, erratic rainfall and poor management of water resources, the problems are worsening every year,” said Prakash Amatya from the NGO Forum for Urban Water and Sanitation.

Photo credit: Sarah Coghill