Welcome to my life: Walking for water in Nepal
This article first appeared in Oasis, WaterAid Australia’s bi-annual supporter magazine.
In 2015, a devastating earthquake hit Nepal. Kavre was one the one of the most affected districts; over 327 people lost their lives. Out of a survey of 98,019 houses, 38.13% houses were fully destroyed. Water, sanitation and hygiene services were also badly affected; over 129 water supply schemes and irrigation projects were damaged. It is estimated that roughly NRs 720 million (AUD $8.7 million) is required to rebuild water supply schemes in the Kavre district. The earthquake was a life-changing moment for many people in Kavre, including Bijay, who was 11 years old at the time. Read on for an interview with Bijay, three years on.
Lives in Kavre, Nepal
Daily steps: 5175
How old were you when you started collecting water?
After the devastating earthquake in April 2015, I started carrying water. The nearby water source dried up. The nearby water source was around 10 minutes away. I was 11 years old by then.
Who do you collect water with?
Sometimes I go with my friends and most of the time I go alone. You never know when you need water. But I like to go with my friends. It is fun and easy to pass time.
What time do you collect water?
I collect water twice daily. Sometimes I have to carry more than double but usually I go in the morning at about 6 AM before going to school and then after returning from the school at about 4 PM.
Describe your walk to water
The water source is far. The walking path is not very easy. Going to the source is easy because it is downhill but when coming back with heavy Gagri (a traditional water pot in Nepali) full of water it is very exhausting. The path is steep and not smooth. Some places are dangerous too. If you slip and fall, there is less chance that you will return fit and healthy. Generally, it takes around an hour if there is no queue at the source but if I have to wait and be in a queue, it will take more than an hour. Let’s say up to an hour and half.
How do you feel during your water walk?
I wish I did not have to carry water. Sometimes I feel frustrated thinking about it. I have to spend so much time only carrying water. Carrying water is very tiring. I have to rest at least at three places before reaching home.
Describe the water source
The water source is far away. The water is not very tasty compared to the previous water source we had nearby. Usually the place is very busy. Around 20 people will be there to fetch water. I have to wait around 20-30 minutes.
How heavy is the water you have to carry back home?
The Gagri contains 15 litres of water and the Gagri itself is 5kg. So it is heavy. When the path is steep, it is very hard to carry heavy the Gagri whilst returning.
What do you use the water you collect for?
The water I collect is used especially for drinking. We all go to the source, if we have to take bath and wash clothes. It is not possible to carry water back home for baths and washing clothes. We used to have buffalos, cows, ox and many goats, which we had to sell because we couldn’t provide enough water for them. Most of the villagers sold their cattle for the same reason.
What does the water look like?
The water is not protected but since it is a natural stream, the water looks clean. The taste is also not that bad. We have not fallen sick due to this water. Sometimes we get fever and flu but I don’t think it is because of water we drank from that source. But again, I am not sure.
Have you or anyone in your family ever been sick from drinking the water?
Nobody has got major diseases till now. Sometimes my sister and I have stomach aches, fever, headaches, and flu. I cannot exactly say that the water caused those diseases. Sometimes I feel this might be due to water we are drinking.
Have you ever missed school to collect water?
Yes, I have missed my school while collecting water. I miss around one week in a month. When there is no water, the food is not cooked on time and I get late. If I am very late then I don’t feel like going to school because my teacher would scold me.
What would you do with your time if you didn’t have to walk for water?
Having clean water nearby home means a lot for me;
- I can go to school in time.
- I can get more time to study and I can do my homework properly.
- We can afford to get cattle (cow, buffalo). If we have cow and buffalo, we can sell the milk and earn some money.
- Personal hygiene will improve.
- We can grow green vegetables. We will not have to buy vegetables from the market.
- We will have fewer diseases.
- I will have more time to hang around with my friends. I can watch television.
- I will not have to carry heavy Gagri.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I want to go to Japan or Canada for further study. I can earn money and I want to serve my community. I think being a politician is a good way to serve the community and the nation. Actually I don’t want to leave my country but earning money in Nepal is not easy and without money we cannot do anything.
How much water do you drink each day?
I drink around five litres of water every day.