Increasing pollution, depleting water table make groundwater in Kathmandu unfit for drinking
After killing its lifeline, the Bagmati, Kathmandu valley is extracting its groundwater to the last drop. But the quality of groundwater here is fast deteriorating due to lack of proper sewage disposal system and years of overexploitation, warn analysts.
This is dangerous. In the absence of adequate water supply, almost every household in Kathmandu has either a borewell, a hand pump or a dug well. Some also depend on hittis, a traditional shallow groundwater source. Even the water supply authority, Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Ltd (KUKL), depends on groundwater for up to 35 per cent of the water it supplies.
Lately, increasing cases of water-borne diseases like diarrhoea, typhoid, Hepatitis A and E are being reported from areas where people depend on supply water or groundwater, says Razni Malla, associate professor at the microbiology department of Tri Chandra University in Kathmandu. “This indicates microbial contamination in supply and groundwater,” says Shova Srestha, head of the department. The diseases are common among slum-dwellers who depend on shallow hand pumps situated close to drains or dump yards.
A study by non-profit Environment and Public Health Organisation (ENPHO) corroborates the observations. The study, which analysed groundwater across the valley, found over 80 per cent of the samples contaminated with E coli. Worse, the study found high concentrations of ammonia and iron in the groundwater of central valley. About 85 per cent of the samples had ammonia content above the WHO limit of 1.5 ppb (parts per billion) in the pre-monsoon period. Iron concentration in 97 per cent of the samples was above the WHO limit, says Narayan Prasad Upadhyay, technical advisor of ENPHO.
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