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Squatters find way to rid of river pollution Print E-mail
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Thursday, 04 December 2008

ImageBy: Dev Kumar Sunwar

Kathmandu: Until a year ago, life was like a nightmare for squatters of Narayan tole behind the Maharajgunj-based Kanti Children’s Hospital. Pungent smell emanating from the polluted Samakhusi River used to stink their nostrils. The polluted river used to cause diseases galore. But all that changed after the squatters realized that disposal of waste in the river, including toilet waste, was to blame for the stink and a number of diseases, including diarrhoea, eye shore and dysentery.

After this realization, the squatters sought help from I/NGOs to get rid of the maladies. Their plea for help did not go in vain. LUMANTI, an NGO working in the slums, Water Aid and UN-HABITAT contributed Rs. 90,000 and technical expertise. ImageTwo small wastewater treatment plants (septic tank with up flow bio-filters) were built with this assistance. Each tank has two chambers (upper and lower) and a bio-filter separates the two. The filter blocks solid waste and allows liquid waste into the upper chamber. Solid materials that remain on the first chamber decompose in time. Twenty-eight households of the area have linked their toilet sewage pipes with these tanks, which discharge only clean water into the river. The squatters use decomposed waste as fertiliser.
"Earlier, only a few of us had toilets in our households. We used to defecate out in the open at night. The handful of toilets had their drainage pipes linked with the river," said Gita Devi Dhakal, one of the squatters. "The stench emanating from the polluted river used to make our lives miserable. Now, stink has become a thing of the past."

Image"We want to change the mindset of the people, who see us (squatters) as the main polluters of the river and environment," said Sudip Pulami, secretary of Narayan Tole Sudhar Samiti. With Asian Development Bank funding, the department of Urban Development and Building Construction (DUDBC), under the Ministry of Physical Planning and Works (MoPPW), is constructing over 30 bigger wastewater treatment plants under the Urban and Environmental Improvement project (UNIP) in a number of cities.
The bigger the plant, the more it costs. But, according to Lajana Manandhar, executive director of LUMANTI, if the government makes treatment of wastewater mandatory, then every individual building a house in the urban area will be able to afford a small treatment plant, which is cheap and occupies little space.
"Every planner can learn a lesson from the initiative of the Narayan tole squatter community," said Manandhar. "If all households build small plants, then we can clean up the polluted rivers of Kathmandu without having to wait for donors."
River pollution will be controlled to a great extent if 32 squatters' settlements in the Kathmandu valley take a leaf from the people of Narayan tole.

Source: The Kathmandu Post, December 2, 2008

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