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Bagmati River Action Plan

The Bagmati River is the largest river in the capital city of Kathmandu Valley which comprises 57 rivers and rivulets as its tributaries. The life of Bagmati is intertwined with the lives of millions of the Kathmandu dwellers. It has functioned as the main artery of the city, nourishing the Valley and providing immense environmental and ecological services. The Hindus and Buddhists, for whom the river water has special religious and spiritual values, consider the water of Bagmati as a holy water 'JAL'. However, with the rapid population growth and haphazard urbanization of the Kathmandu Valley, the Bagmati River and its tributaries suffered the most. At present, the Bagmati River system is highly polluted. The problem is further aggravated by continuous dumping of solid wastes,domestic sewerage and industrial waste along its bank and in the river directly.

Although being a part of cultural and religious heritage, the activities of dumping of solid wastes and discharging of untreated liquid wastes in Bagmati River has made an assault on its sanctity. In order to curb further environmental degradation of the Bagmati River and adjoining area as well as to restore the condition of once pristine Bagmati River, the Government of Nepal formed a High Powered Committee for Implementation & Monitoring of the Bagmati Area Sewerage Construction/Rehabilitation Project (BASP) in 1995 A.D. The main objectives are as follows:

  • Construction of Trunk Sewer pipeline along both the banks of river.
  • Construction of secondary Sewer pipelines.
  • Construction of wastewater Treatment Plants.
  • Construction of River Training Works.
  • Construction of roads and green belts along the banks of the river and
  • Creation of public awareness program

Key issues

The Bagmati Action plan identified many issues related to the Bagmati river based on previous studies and reports. The critical issues of the Bagmati river and its tributaries are primarily related to water discharge, water quality, aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity, river side land use, preservation of culture and heritage, and related institutional arrangements. Based on the field visits, discussion and observations, the following four primary issues have been identified as critical for immediate restoration and conservation of the Bagmati River:

  1. River ecosystem and waste water
    • Decrease in water discharge;
    • Degradation of river water quality;
    • Degradation of catchment quality;
    • Narrowing and deepening of water way; and
    • Depletion of aquatic biodiversity
  2. River side land use and socio-economic conditions
    • Changes in riverside land use; and
    • Eroding aesthetic values
  3. Culture and heritage
    • Deteriorating culture and heritage; and
    • Eroding cultural values and norms
  4. Key challenges
    • Integrating conventional planning with ecosystem management;
    • Demand management, payment for services and incentives for conservation; and
    • Enforcement, coordination and stakeholder participation

Zoning for effective management

First they have identified the different management interventions for the restoration of the Bagmati river. The issues are complex; improvement of the river ecosystem is very challenging. So, a strategic and systematic approach is essential to develop and implement the Bagmati Action Plan. For this the action plan implementation team has classified the river based on observed various situation and pollution in different areas. The water quality classes are as -
Class I: Non-polluted;
Class II: Moderately polluted;
Class III: Heavily polluted; and
Class IV: Extremely polluted.

They also have identified the various different issues and management need for different classes.

Planned activities in different zones

Based on various rules acts and policies, the committee has prepared various short term and long term action plans. The main vision for this is clean, green and healthy river system in the valley. They have prepared various plans based on different zones and locations. The activities as listed in Bagmati Action Plan document are as follows;

1. Natural Conservation Core Zone

  • Undertake various measures to protect and enhance water resources and increase water discharge into the river
  • Undertake various measures to conserve catchment area and aquatic biodiversity
  • To maintain and enhance the river water quality
  • To renovate and conserve the cultural and heritage sites
  • To promote tourism

2. Rural zone

  • Undertake various measures to enhance water flow in the river
  • To prevent discharge of waste water and solid waste into rivers
  • To conserve aquatic biodiversity and riparian landscape
  • Promote sustainable agricultural practices
  • To renovate and conserve the cultural and heritage sites
  • Regulate urban growth and industrial activities

3. Peri Urban zone

  • To improve river water quality and quantity through proper management of water and waste water
  • Undertake various measures to protect riverside lands, aquatic biodiversity and aesthetic values of rivers and its surroundings
  • Control and relocate squatter settlements from the river banks
  • Conserve and regenerate cultural and heritage sites

4. Urban zone

  • To improve river water quality and quantity through proper management of water and waste water
  • Take measures to protect river side land, aquatic biodiversity and aesthetic value of rivers and their surroundings
  • Control and relocate squatter settlements from the river banks
  • Maintain and renovate heritage sites
  • To promote tourism

5. Downstream zone

  • To improve river water quantity and quality through proper management of water and waste water
  • To improve the self-purification process of the river
  • Undertake various measures to protect river side land, aquatic biodiversity and aesthetic value of rivers and their surroundings
  • Maintain and renovate the cultural and heritage sites
  • Promote tourism and recreation

6. Cross cutting activities

  • Restructure existing BCIDC to implement the Bagmati Action Plan
  • Formulate policies, legislations and regulatory mechanisms required for BCIDC Act
  • Revise Waste Management Act and Rules and amendments of existing waste management policy
  • Develop guidelines to prevent haphazard construction of local drains and discharging of waste water into rivers
  • Demarcate river territories, water ways and flood plains (UN-Habitat 2008)
  • Explore and assess possibilities for increasing water discharge in the river such as inter-basin transfer of water to Bagmati through multipurpose Melamchi Project
  • Prepare a water inventory GIS database including river networks, water source area, with the level of vulnerability to low flow
  • Develop a long term Bagmati Ecological Monitoring System by involving national and international academic institutions
  • Establish municipal compost plants, explore and develop strategies to link with CDM to generate revenues
  • Ensure IEE/EIA studies for industries and other construction activities in and around the rivers
  • Establish short and long term sanitary landfill sites for waste disposal
  • Promote household and community level waste management system including composting with the involvement of private sector
  • Engage private sector for the management of solid waste in Kathmandu Valley
  • Develop public-private-partnership for Fecal Sludge Management System
  • Ensure the provision of waste water treatment system for all commercial buildings and housing colonies
  • Plant and protect indigenous plant species along the river banks
  • Build capacity of local communities, public sector organizations and other stakeholders for implementation of BAP
  • Initiate public awareness and advocacy campaigns for the conservation of natural resources and river ecosystem
  • Support guthi traditions for maintenance and conservation of heritage sites
  • Conduct regular research by involving academic institutions