Renu Khadka, 24, living in a rented land at the bank of Bagmati river in Koteshwor, just a few kilometers away from capital city, has to spend almost two hours to fetch a bucket of water from a well. Although Khadka, a mother of three children, belongs to so-called higher caste, people from nearby communities treat her as an untouchable because of the unhygienic place.
Khadka is not the only woman to face these kinds of problems. Many people living in urban areas and rural parts of Nepal have similar stories to tell. The water and sanitation are not only life-sustainers but also important components to uplift the social status.
"Don't talk about the quality of water and don't talk about residential areas with sanitation. If we demand more than this, we will have to lose everything," said Khadka, who seeks support of her seven year old girl child. "As the water level has depleted, we don't know where to go for water ," she said.
For billions of poor people of world, their hope to have drinking water and access to sanitation can materialize only if the world's richest countries make certain commitments to their cause.
As the group of world's richest countries of the world, the G8 has the power to make huge changes in development of drinking water and sanitation. Since the G8 summit meeting is scheduled to be held in Germany , the End Water Poverty Coalition has urged Germany to explicitly recognize the slow progress in extending access to sanitation and clean water.
As a global initiative, members of the End Water Poverty - consisting of representatives of local non-governmental organizations and Water Aid Nepal's representatives ? met with Germany Embassy officials in Kathmandu urging Germany to use its leadership of the G8 in 2007 to address the water and sanitation crisis in Nepal and globally.
The coalition, among others, also urged Germany to ensure that the G8 Summit commits to a Global Action Plan for sanitation and water to ensure services for the world's poorest people.
From social status to gender, education and health, access to drinking water and sanitation is prerequisite in a drive to fight poverty.
Nepal has been making efforts to increase the access to water and sanitation to remote areas. But the country is yet to address the sanitation and drinking water supply even in urban areas like capital Kathmandu .
" Germany is in a unique position to make huge changes in the lives of millions of poor people throughout the world. It needs to use the G8 to initiate a task force to prepare a Global Action Plan to be adopted at the 2008 G8 Summit in Japan . Our coalition members in Europe are pushing for this to happen. In Nepal , our link with Germany is through the Germany Embassy here and we met the Embassy officials to have this message heard," say the coalition members.
As 2015 deadline set by Millennium Development Goals is coming closer, Nepal seems to be in no position to meet the goals of providing access to drinking water and sanitation to all of its population.
"One in three people do not have access to drinking water. Similarly, every two in three do not have access to sanitation in Nepal . Every year more than 13,000 children die in Nepal before completing one year due to water related diseases," said Umesh Pandey, director of Nepal Water For Health (NEWAH). "Since Germany is second largest country contributing in water and sanitation. We are expecting that Germany will include this as an agenda."
Although the situation is so pathetic, Nepal , which has to address number of other issues, does not have adequate resources to invest in the water and sanitation sector. "The access to water and sanitation is prerequisite to alleviate poverty. Leaders of world's richest country will hear this voice," said Lazana Manandhar, executive director of Lumanti, an NGO working in sanitation sector.
At a time when Nepal is facing a huge resource gap to provide sanitation and drinking water to all of its citizens, the initiative taken by various NGOs under End Water Poverty, an international campaign calling for sanitation and water for all, urging G8 leaders to take global water and sanitation gives some reasons for hope. "Without sanitation and water, there can be no sustainable development in health, education, and livelihoods, locking people into a cycle of poverty and disease," said Sanjaya Adhikary, country representative of Water Aid Nepal .
According to the End of Water Poverty, billions of people live in the same kind of squalor and disease that was eradicated long ago in the rich world. Without sanitation and water there can be no sustainable development in health, education and livelihoods, locking poor people into a cycle of poverty.
Along with the resource gaps, there is also gap in coordination among the agencies working to increase access of sanitation and drinking water. "As there are various agencies working in the sanitation and drinking water, they don't have only one agenda," said Pandey. There are 23 agencies under the UN working in water and sanitation.
According to Water Aid Nepal's 2004 report, to reach the sanitation target , an additional 14,000 households need to be served per month between 2000 and 2015, and an additional 11,300 households need to be served per month to reach the drinking water target. The total financial requirement to meet these targets is US$ 1,087 million - the resource availability for 2000 to 2015 is US$ 755 million resulting in an annual resource gap of US$ 23 million.
"Our experiences have shown that increased access to sanitation and water can bring a lot of change in the human life," said Rajendra Aryal, president of Drinking Water Consumer Federation.
Providing access to drinking water and sanitation to all Nepalese is primarily a national responsibility. The government, however, lacks resources to invest in this area.
Published by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and National Planning Commission, Millennium Development Goals Needs Assessment for Nepal says that the total cost of attaining the MDG on water supply and sanitation for 2005-2015 amounts to Rs 137, 398.2 million at 2004/05 constant prices.
As the government is not in a position to allocate such huge resources, only a support from international donor communities can make difference to the poor people of Nepal living in various part of the country.
"This is a global crisis and the G8 countries can bring a change. By the cancellation of debt and announcement of doubling of the aid, the G8 countries have shown that they are committed to the welfare of people living in Africa and Asia . We hope they will give priority to the water and sanitation," said James Wicken, Asia Regional and Advocacy and Policy Advisor, Water Aid Nepal .
According to the Human Development Report 2006, Nepal falls in the category of countries with sanitation coverage less than 40 percent. Inequality in water provision relates not just to access and expenditure but also to price. Price rise steeply as water passes through intermediaries i.e. trucks, vendors, tanks. In Kathmandu , the municipal water utility reaches about three quarters of the population but half of the poor depend upon public taps.
Whether it is Nepal's needs assessment or Water Aid Nepal's study, all the reports clearly show that Nepal require a major increase in donor funding to properly finance the increase in water and sanitation access. At the same time, there is also the need for coordinated efforts to provide facilities at grass root level.
As it has done in the past by doubling the aid and cancellation of debt of poor countries of Asia and Africa , there lies hope on G8 summit regarding the increased access to water and sanitation for poor people like Khadka.