Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Field Experiences

Arranging for the field visit involved regular telephone communication in arranging time for meeting the concerned persons. The major challenge in the field initially was to be able to convey the details of the research, its objectives, rationale, research team and moreover the justification for selecting a particular site for the research purpose and then convincing the diverse community to participate on a regular basis in the research activities either in terms of household survey, focus group discussion or stakeholders meeting. A major constraint and that quite likely from the field, particularly from the local administrative bodies was the expectations and direct benefits in terms of financial or technical support to meet the immediate needs in the VDC. Hence explaining the details and the rationale while making them to visualize the changing urbanization patterns in the localities and making them understand the linkage of urbanization with the day to day changing water scenario which could be more severe under the changing climatic condition required admittedly has been extensive and repeated effort.

The grey documents maintained by the sites are in fact useful in developing acquaintances to the site which could even draw the interest of the locals to participate. The research team's understanding has been, these documents can be really meaningful to the research. However, with the experiences and moreover the prejudice of generalizing the cases of supplying information to the students for academic purpose but gaining nothing in return for themselves had caused hesitation among the local authority in sharing their resources. However explaining the research motives and assuring them to provide the finding details of the research and report for the use of VDC finally has been productive in getting them.

In the case of political lacunae, VDC is local authority and having formal approval from the local authority makes the research institutionally strong and enhances local credibility. However with limited staffs and multiple responsibilities assigned to the VDC Secretary, arranging time for the formal process of getting the formal invitation letter and distributing it to the concerned local key stakeholders was definitely an extra task for the VDC office, and therefore had no interest to get into the business.
The VDC Secretary in one of the site commented "I am over loaded, at times I even have to be a Judge".
However the stakeholders meeting has been an essential entry point in identifying stakeholders and bringing them to a common platform, understanding the diversified perception and interest and priorities. Under such context, the team provided well drafted invitation letter just remaining to be signed by the VDC Secretary and financial support for the letter distribution. The VDC authorities and communities also have to be definitely acknowledged for facilitating the research team by providing their time and VDC offices for the helping in identifying the stakeholders and arranging of the meeting venue.

The advantage gained from being finally able to involve the community and the local authorities has been in identifying the key- stakeholders and successfully conducting local key-stakeholders meeting in three of the four selected sites (Matatirtha, Lubhu and Dadhikot) leading to forming of Research committee involving local key stakeholders while are in the process for the fourth site- Jhaukhel.

Text Box: Case 3: Deviating Away From Agriculture
Some Narrations:

“Previously annual earning from paddy used to be Rs 8000 now we get much more in whole sum by leasing land for water”

“We used to get labour at 80 rupees but now arranging labour even at Rs 200 is  very difficult” (with increasing urbanization,   labour shifted into masonry works)

“Cultivating Taichin (variety of paddy) requires more water so I have shifted to mansuli. It requires less water”

“Here was small pond for buffalo wallowing but it has disappeared. Its no more essential and no one remembers it.” 

Among the four sites selected, my visit has been most frequent to Matatirtha. The experience in this site specifically ranges from being initially considered as student trying to do thesis. With frequent field visits, interaction with community and arranging for the Stakeholders meeting have involved numbers of visits to Matatirtha and where happily I am being recognized as researcher. When met by people, there are cases of people trying to get details on the ongoing activities and the plans for near future.
Text Box: Case 1: Lack of co-ordination resolved for better

During one of my field visits, women empowerment training was being organized in the VDC office under Women Empowerment Project of District Development Committee. This was the second of such training organized in the VDC. The first was conducted for Ward 7 while this was for Ward no1. Incidentally, I had reached there for the research purpose and was invited by VDC Secretary to participate in it. With no hint, I was proposed to give details about me and my project.  The words from the VDC Secretary were, "Tapai haru lai Madam le kai kura vannu huncha." It was a total astonishing to me. Having already in front of the mass, I started introducing myself and this turned to be an opportunity to explain about the research and understand the water issue there. An interesting thing was this ward falls in the water scarce VDC within the VDC and as per the participants, they had submitted formal application to the VDC office for extending household water supply to their ward. Having no initiative made by the local authority, complain was against the irresponsive attitude of the Local Government.
On confrontation platform that happened to occur, VDC Secretary explained there had never been registered such a formal letter. Explaining the situations of political lacunae as a major cause of the missing co-ordination , he suggested to have made follow ups rather that growing grievances. He further encouraged the Women Organization to take the initiative to re-initiate the process for which the participants seemed enthusiastic. 

The site as per my field experience till date gives insight of the extensive political and power involvements, mainly in the periphery of water, which involves the water entrepreneur for commercial water extraction or the socially, economically and politically strong groups trying to suppress the local authorities regulatory mechanisms. The local authority in itself has its limitations and has not been able to vision and define strict actions to take regarding water management.
This is quite clear from a statement from one of the ex-vice chair person and Chairman of a drinking water scheme active in the VDC when questioned regarding the future strategy on regulating commercial well which was previously claimed to have been restricted, " Bahini, vai ra cha, vanai ra garai ma ta farak vai halcha ni" meaning "There will be difference in saying and doing." So it gives slight glimpse about their condition of not being able to clearly define their mission.

 And definitely, addressing the needs of water deprived population and bringing politically and economically strong water entrepreneurs under regulation while the VDC as local authority has weak economic and institutional reach is not a child's play.

Text Box: Case1: Power Rivalry- A live conversation

Chair person of Matatirtha Drinking Water Scheme and Source Conservation Committee is also a water entrepreneur with his water industry based on public water spring –Bhusunkhel. Having strong political, social and economic reach, 20 years back had arranged piped water supply from Bhusunkhel for his HH use but still has been operating the water industries. Moreover committee headed by him has been collecting tax from other mineral water industries based on the above spring and argues “Tax is paid to Muhan Samraxyan samiti, so no need to pay tax to VDC”. When proposed by VDC Secretary to pay back his expenses and he is to hand over the spring to VDC based on Local Self Governance Act, 1999, he directly refused claiming it to be result of his years long social contributions and left without completing the conversation….. 

Also a major point raised by the water entrepreneur in their conversation is," When other VDCs can take our water and benefit why can't we use our resources for our economic gain."
The pressure from the local communites is also feeble which can be interpreted from a very common narration" Aafno jagga ko pani bechna kasle rokne, hamle vanera hene ho ra! "Meaning- Who will intervene in selling water from a private land and who is going to listen to us anyway!"
This shows how the people have been trying to keep themselves away from activities around the commercial water extraction. The condition is such that a public water tap that was in operation from water spring in private land of an individual, after starting his own water business has halted the supply to this public tap which has forced people to explore for alternatives, however the impact is still to be looked into.

The water extraction on the other hand is growing continuously with 6 new water industries been added  within the last two years but neither the VDC office nor the water entrepreneur committee established in the VDC has maintained any document on it.

Diverse Perception on climate change needs to analyzed through Meteorological Data
The perception on climate change and even the water yield from the sources vary from person to While during scoping study, the local perception regarding declining water yield was shared by community people while in the recent field visits, some interviewed people in the locality have asserted the overall water yield from the springs in the VDC has not been reduced. Their logic says, the apparent decline is due to multiple drinking water schemes that have been extracting water for household distribution pointing " In the spring where it was said to have 8" water yield now 18" pipes have been laid so how will there be water in the spring?" This individual emphasized the climatic changing pattern has not been noticed yet in the VDC as the weather is cool and temperature rise is not prominent.

 An old man was so dissatisfied with the depleting river water quality and low water level who commented "Chara lai khana pani paani chaina" meaning- There is no water even for birds. As per him, water is diverted from the natural springs through pipes while the open water bodies are polluted by the effluents and sewage resulting disturbance to the natural ecology.

Among the elderly people a common observation is unpredictable rainfall and the decreasing rain is frequently narrated. A statement getting to hear in almost any conversation regarding rainfall variability is, "Aakash batai pani chaina, Bhagwan le nadiyko kasle k garna sakcha-There is norain, God has not given water, what can be done for it."

The rainfall variation is to some extent evident from the field visits while observation on temperature change has not been much perceived. Moreover the perception varies. Therefore the climatic perception has to be analyzed based on the meteorological data for scientific basis.

Posted by: Anushiya Shrestha



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