What seems to be a gutter fl owing across the city of Shankhu was once most accessible water canal that flowed along the doorstep of nearly 1000 household located in 8 Toles (small villages) of the settlement. Few artistic stone spouts are gaping dry to remind this generation of the source of the water in Sankhu in the past. The PRAGATI project has joined hands with the elected bodies to restore some of the ponds in the area, mainly for extinguishing accidental fire and to promote tourism.
PRATAP MAHARJAN, Project Coordinator, NDRC
In ancient time, ponds and canal were key components of water management system in the cities. There were three major components in the system (i) the rajkulo (the water canals), (ii) the ponds and wells (iii) stone spouts. The system integrated these components to ensure water delivery at doorstep and avoid wastage. The rajkulo was meant to irrigate the agriculture land, recharge the ponds and also for daily chores.
“The ponds are meant to recharge ground water and manage micro climate. From a disaster control perspective, people managed to have water in their community to put off fire since they didn’t have fire brigade back then,” says Pramod Simkhada, Chief Executive officer of Shankharapur Municipality. The wells and stone spouts were the major source of drinking water. Altogether 18 stone spouts (nine inside the settlement and nine outside) served people for different purposes. At present only five are functional.
With the change in water supply system these wells and stone spouts, ponds and rajkulo are gradually losing their value. Wells are used when there is no alternative to drinking water or when supply falls short. The older generation still values them. Though many of the younger generation are “aware” of its value it is merely part of their daily life. Owing to the unmanaged urbanisation, the route of the rajkulo was disturbed, the “gifts” of modern society (plastic waste particularly) clogged the route while inadequate maintenance resulted in deposit of sediments narrowing down the rajkulo, a major supplier of water for ponds and hence operation of the entire system.
These entities of water system were integrated with the utility and cultural values that ensured their conservation. Some ponds are symbolic such as kalash pokhari represents “kalash” (good omen) while entering the city through “bhau dhokha” (a gate specified for entry of new brides in the settlement). The lotus from the “pala pukhu” is offered to Bajrayogini temple- one of the main goddess for the city. A pond is an important part of the Gatha Mangal festival. Besides cultural value, these water resources held importance from disaster response perspective- particularly fire. The settlement is compact and dense; possibility of spreading fire is very high. Hence, having the sources of water close was the most practical way to put off accidental fire.
Hazard identification process has reckoned fire as a major hazard after earthquake in the settlement. Although the municipality is in the process of managing fire brigade, it is difficult for them to navigate through the narrow lanes. Hence, not having water resource in the settlement poses higher risk of damage in case fire starts.