Thursday, 17 January 2013

BPD Board Members' Blog Series: Part 3

Welcome to the third of a series of guest posts by BPD’s Board members. Please share this with others and feel free to make comments through the site or by emailing us.

There are some promising signs that the importance of partnerships is gaining recognition. 2013 has been declared “International Year of Water Cooperation” by the United Nations – a year when both the UN and Stockholm World Water Week will be highlighting the importance of partnerships and collaboration – BPD’s area of expertise. In the December issue of its Waterfront magazine, SIWI wrote that “Cooperation between actors in different sectors is essential for proper water development and management...”

In this third edition of our Board Blog, Lajana Manandhar, of NGO Lumanti Support Group for Shelter, highlights how a Nepali national daily newspaper profiled the importance of such cooperation. Drawing on a case study from Kathmandu, it illustrates how partnership can even act as a bridge across political divides.

Partnership bridges the political divide

BPD Board member
Lajana Manandhar

End Water Poverty
In September 2012, leading Nepali national daily newspaper Kantipur wrote a telling piece about one of Lumanti’s water projects that involved two village development committees. What was revealing was that Kantipur did not highlight the technical or financial details of the project such as design, system, production, tariff, source of funds etc. Instead, it focused on the partnership work that was needed among the multiple political parties represented in the community to make this water project a success.

Water services in a rapidly changing environment 
The project took place in Tokha, northern Kathmandu, 14km from the heart of the capital. The community had been suffering from an acute shortage of water, as had many parts of the Kathmandu Valley. Government taps had been dry for many years and the only source of drinking water was the taps installed by Plan International nearly 18 years earlier. A committee had been set up for the management of this free, communal water supply system. The rapid urbanization that is taking place in Tokha and the change of lifestyle from one of a typical farming village into that of a growing town, has led to high per capita consumption of water. Demand has also shifted from communal to private taps, which has started a hot debate on whether or not water should be free.

New political divisions
In Tokha, people have a high level of political awareness. They are known as fierce political activists and have been very active in politics for the last few decades. (In the past, people in Tokha had only one political agenda – to establish a multi-party democracy in Nepal, as opposed to the single monarchy system.) The establishment of democracy has seen the introduction of many political parties, which has led to division according to personal political beliefs. This political feeling has spilled over and become a hindrance to community development programmes. 

United by a desire to develop the community
The role of support organisations was therefore critical to the water project in Tokha, which was implemented by Lumanti, with support from UN Habitat. Patience and time was needed to help the community’s political party representatives to understand that if they wanted to address the water problems of Tokha, there was no other way than to come together and work collectively. The user committee that was established brought together members of all the key political parties and the good governance of this committee managed to close the political divide, leading to successful completion of the project. The Kantipur article concluded by stating the community leaders’ views, that they would not let the differences of national level party opinions prevail and hinder the local development programme. They realised that, in the end, political parties are united by a desire to contribute to development of the community and the nation. 

That a leading newspaper thought to write a piece with a focus on collaboration and partnership effort is recognition of its importance: As we well know at BPD, there is indeed no other way to succeed than to work together in partnership at all levels, for the benefit of the community as a whole.