7th International FMIST Seminar 2017

Highlights of the presentations and discussions of 7Th International FMIST Seminar held on 11 April 2017.

  • The implementation of MUS continues to expand, both within the WASH sector and within the irrigation sector, and is followed with interest by the Nepalese government, in particular the Department of Irrigation and the Department of Population and Environment (National and Local Action Plans for Adaptation).
  • The multiple benefits of MUS for communities are consistently confirmed, not only qualitatively but also through rigorous impact evaluation. Similarly, the higher benefit cost ratio of investments in MUS compared to single-use systems is also consistently found.
  • Nepal’s national Water Use Management Plan consists of 17 transparent steps to assess water resources, existing multiple uses (drinking, domestic, livestock, irrigation, hydropower, water mill, etc) and socio-economic conditions; to identify potential MUS projects at different service levels in a participatory manner; and to choose and implement a particular project, all in collaboration with the Village Development Committee. While the WUMP originally focused on the development of water for domestic uses, the holistic planning process in collaboration with the decentralized government structures fully fits MUS approaches.
  • It is vital to address intra-community and intra-household equity and conflict resolution issues, also for sustainability. Some projects already practice affirmative action to effectively reach the unserved and the most marginalized. Reaching women is also important because of massive male outmigration. This leaves the women behind who traditionally lack secure access to land, water technology, and access to village decision-making.
  • A growing problem is the drying out of the water source (spring, stream). Water in the catchment areas of water systems needs to be recharged. Recharge and overall watershed management aspect needs to be more integral part of MUS thinking – the emphasis cannot be on “USE” only.
  • Growing competition for water resources renders equity considerations even more important. Formal registration as the only consideration risks excluding the marginalized.
  • While some participants thought that the technical design of MUS was more complicated, others thought it was similar to the single-use systems. Quantities of water used tend to differ in MUS; therefore, it may be needed to link water fees to the quantity used. The same applies to the capital expenditure itself: in many water schemes the same contribution is expected from all, but not all may benefit in the same way.
  • Linkages with markets, as in IDE’s collection centres, are crucial as incentive for more productive water uses.
  • The most important next step for MUS in Nepal is the further institutionalization of MUS in government structures and the private sector. Although MUS is still perceived as a donor-driven concept, for communities the use and re-use of multiple sources to meet multiple needs with multi-purpose infrastructure as the rule, are obvious. Some government departments, including the Department of Irrigation, the Department of Population and Environment and the Department of Local Infrastructure Development and Agricultural Roads (in its guidelines for block grants) support MUS. However, the single-use headings of budgets at local level in the siloed set up of the public and donor sectors still discourage a choice for MUS.
  • One action towards this institutionalization is to document the widespread self-initiated MUS initiatives by communities, and, as public sector, to ‘think MUS’ and systematically document that MUS happens anyhow: systems designed for a single use are in reality used for non-planned uses as well, even at very low service levels.
  • As the MUS approach is anchored in people’s practices and needs, the key question is how to ensure that funding and other development support is genuinely put in people’s own hands. This requires the piloting of innovative and transparent forms of organization, rules and procedures and capacity building.
  • Last but not least, far-reaching changes are currently underway in Nepal with the upcoming first local government elections since 2001, and with the ongoing replacement of the constitution and overhaul of the government structures into further decentralized ‘Gaupalikas’ (rural municipalities in which the former Village Development Committees become wards; the districts disappear) and ‘Nagarpalikas’ (urban municipalities). This further decentralization is fertile ground for MUS.