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A great amount of knowledge lies in villages but we rarely think about reaching out to the locals for this knowledge when we try to address the problems they face.

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The name of the pond in the picture is ‘budhaa le khaneko pokhari’ literally meaning a pond dug by old man. I was more than thrilled when I saw this pond in one of my field trips to Kavre. Though the ponds in the villages have some kind of local names such as sano pokhari (small pond) thulo pokhari (big pond) and so on, but it was the first time that I came across a pond with a sign post, named after the budhaa who dug it. The reason why it had a nicely written sign post is because the pond was right at the entrance of an army post that helped preserve it along with its name.

In recent days, the importance of dug-out ponds has increased more than ever before, and will continue to be so, because the local water sources and the springs in the hills have been progressively drying or have already gone dry in many places when the demand for water is increasing by the day. Change in rainfall pattern, change in land use, and most importantly utter disregard to the age old way of managing rainwater have perhaps collectively led to depletion of water yield in all local sources. As a result, the conventional technique of bringing water from far away sources using pipes, which has been a major programme of all development plans of the last 4 decades, has also been unfeasible in many places because the sources have shrunk all over. In addition, people are more concerned about sharing their water sources with others. Therefore, water managers find it increasingly frustrating to operate water projects and provide required water to the users in the face of reducing yield in the sources.

Despite tons of material and information produced by thousands of researchers in the last several decades about how to manage water, we have landed in a situation with water problems  becoming acuter in the period when a substantial amount has been invested in water projects and its research.

Water is a local issue. It is as diverse as the landscape. Where would one find diverse landscape than in the hills, which are not just naturally raised area of land but a complex system of geology and topography that regulate water flow within a watershed boundary? Without understanding the local geological complexity, managing local water will not be easy. In essence, we have yet to understand how water is regulated by every watershed (they are all different because of their diverse nature).

We are fortunate enough to still have some of the work done by people like this self-motivated budhaa who had knowledge of water conservation and energy to dig ponds, which lasted for decades and continued to provide water to the local sources.  But we failed to understand what they did for the larger good of the community, and perhaps of the nature. Therefore we built roads where ponds existed before (picture below).

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A great salute to this selfless ‘Budhaa’ (who is no more now) for leaving something to learn about the importance of ponds by digging this one.

The army post deserves appreciation for preserving it for us to observe.

But a big question remains: with the rising rate of depopulation in the hills do we still have selfless ‘budhaas’ to continue digging ponds?

With support from Irene

Until next

Madhukar Upadhya

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