Wastewater irrigation in the Kathmandu Valley is a widespread but poorly documented practice. This paper presents data from two case study sites, the Kirtipur and Bhaktapur municipalities of the Kathmandu Valley. An overview of existing urban wastewater disposal infrastructure, wastewater agriculture practices and quality of water used, the health implications of these practices and the level of institutional awareness of wastewater related issues are presented and compared with wastewater irrigation in other regions of the world where irrigation with wastewater is practiced. Data for the analyses on agricultural practices and health implications were obtained from a sample of 109 farmers using wastewater within the two municipalities. Bhaktapur typified direct utilization of wastewater by pumping from sewers whereas Kirtipur farmers used it indirectly by gravity flow from polluted rivers. Central to the discussion is that farmers here do not always choose to use wastewater but exploit its benefits when obliged to do so. Since the wastewater also changes the hydrology of the watercourse rendering it perennial, many farmers see the benefit of utilizing the resource. The negative attitude of some farmers towards wastewater stemmed from their inability to control wastewater application leading to flooding and loss of crops. The majority of farmers are well aware of negative health impacts particularly those related to skin infections, and they attempt to protect themselves through washing. No change in water quality can be expected without infrastructure investments and wastewater management changes, which are slow in coming due to the lack of institutional awareness about the complexity of the problem. Interaction amongst the various stakeholders through a formalized mechanism, to influence the disposal and reuse of wastewater is suggested. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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