FOR DRINKING, DOMESTIC AND AGRICULTURAL USAGE
Most people who live in the small towns and villages of the Himalayas depend on surface water for their needs – for drinking, domestic use, as well as agriculture. Sources are typically glacial-fed rivers, springs, ponds and lakes, that depend on the flow of water through agrarian and forested rural landscapes.
In recent years, there has been a reduction in the availability of sufficient quantities of clean water for household use, due to a number of factors: changes in rainfall patterns; pressure on land-use.
Today, many of these areas are experiencing significant socio-economic and cultural change and pressures, with potentially more intensive land use practices such as higher forest extraction, grazing, stone quarrying and uncontrolled urban construction of homes, with supporting infrastructure, such as water pipelines.
These pipelines may frequently traverse large distances between their original source and the downstream townships. In the case of Dhulikhel, Nepal, the pipeline pictured is 14 kilometres long, while at Rajgarh, India, the source lies in a wildlife sanctuary which is 18 kilometres from the town.
These pipelines pass through many settlements and farms en route, creating in turn new dynamics around water availability in places not intended to be the beneficiaries of the pipeline. The exclusion and oversight of rural needs has led to an increase in conflicts with upstream communities near our case study towns, with farmers damaging pipelines or communities refusing further access to water sources.
PIPELINES STRETCH 14KM FROM THE SOURCE TO DHULIKHEL TOWN
Urban water demands are increasing as the town expands, with new ways of living and changing consumption habits. The laying of new pipes disrupts the lives of upstream communities, who have their own changing needs as patterns of agriculture shift towards more water-demanding crops for the market. Stone quarrying activity is leaving visible scars on the landscape, as well as seriously threatening water quality and the ability of people to sustain their lives in rural areas.
Shimla Forest Reserve was the first of its kind in India. Established when authorities recognised the importance of the forest in providing clean potable water and the main supply to the town.
As towns and settlements look towards more distant sources to serve their water needs, the associated journey of water through the landscape becomes mediated by different types of natural and human-engineered systems. The images show the beautiful forests which nurture these sources in the Himalayas, and the piped networks that transport water through the landscape towards end users. Rustic but effective filtration tanks use coarse sand to remove particulate and organic matter from a potable water source before it travels by pipeline to Bidur. Two engineers monitor and maintain a pumping station within Nainital . Using adjacent natural ground sediment as a filter this ageing British installation still provides a vital role.
THE SOURCES OF LIFE
Water is revered in India and Nepal, and moving water, especially rivers, are considered sacred, life-affirming and purifying. Water at source and springs are considered cleanest and best-suited for drinking and cleansing.