Stone spouts were, and in some cases they still are, key water sources for communities in the major urban areas in Kathmandu valley. Many of them have either been neglected after the piped water system came into existence about 5 decades ago or were damaged by various types of construction. They dried out completely. A glaring example is that of the stone spout of Sundhara (the golden spout), which ceased to flow after the construction of a commercial building nearby. Many others turned into scum ponds when the holes that drained the spout water were blocked or damaged while foundations were dug for commercial and residential buildings. However, there are still many which provide water to the local community, though their condition has gradually deteriorated.
Good or bad, dirty or clean, maintained or dilapidated; the level of water discharge in the stone spout is important for local people who depend on them for their daily water needs. But the discharge is not always same like in our kitchen taps which most of us are used to. During monsoon, the discharge is high whereas it declines gradually as the winter progresses. The rainfall that we get in winter, which is believed to be about 20 percent of the total annual rain, does not contribute to the water flow of the stone spouts. When the discharge shrinks it not only affects access to water but also creates conflict among people who are already tired of standing in line for hours to fill their jars. A higher discharge is good news because it serves many people in a very short time.
So, just out of curiosity, I wanted to assess the seasonal discharge between summer and winter in Gyandhara, a popular stone spout of Gyaneshwar. Gyandhara literally means ‘spout of wisdom’. It yields 15 times more water during the rainy season than it does in winter. To be exact, the discharge is a liter per minute in winter (picture on left: May 2016) while it is 15 liter per minute during the rainy season (picture on right: September 2016), which starts to decline towards October and becomes quite low in May-June.
I have seen how crowded Gyandhara used to be until the 1970s. After the municipal supply from Sundarijal provided private connections, the number of users declined. However, even today, there are a reasonable number of people who collect water from this spout. In winter, when other sources dry out, the number users rise exponentially. People from faraway places also come here and that is when the discharge becomes a liter a minute.
In an age where we are constantly aware of what is happening around us locally as well as globally in areas of environment and climate change, politics and economics, social justice and individual freedom; unfortunately, these traditional sources of water are gradually slipping out of our conscious minds. Today, we literally learn from the world every second of our passing lives, yet we have failed to learn from the ‘spout of wisdom’.
With support from Irene