Access to drinking water has increased during the last decade and Nepal is likely to reach near universal access to drinking water by 2015. Those without access may be a relatively small number of communities in difficult geographic settings and some urban and rural settlements. However, access to drinking water does not necessarily imply access to safe drinking water as the piped drinking water is unsafe in most locations throughout the year. Although several cities including capital have a drinking water supply network, they are facing a chronic shortage of water due to unplanned urban growth. The sanitation coverage in the country, estimated at 25 %, is far from adequate. The urban environment is becoming highly degraded, due to discharge of untreated wastewater into water bodies and unmanaged solid waste.
The Kathmandu Valley with 1.6 million population is one of the most populated centers of the country situated at an altitude of about 1350 m above mean sea level. It is a bowl shaped landmass spanned over an area of about 667 km2. The Valley has seen rapid and unplanned growth since the 1970's and land use pattern has changed dramatically. It is predicted that by 2010, about 43% of the present agricultural land will be converted into urban area and about 60 % of villages will have urban to semi urban growth. Already more than 37 % of the rural settings are in urban and peri urban characteristics in terms of population size and access to city.
The impact of urbanization has created several problems in the Valley, the most prominent being shortage of drinking water and pollution of water bodies. Currently, only 50% of the total water demand is supplied which is poor in quality with intermittent supply. Water borne epidemics are a regular phenomenon due to poor water and sanitation facilities where the poor and marginalized are most affected. Over extraction of groundwater to meet the daily water requirements has resulted in groundwater depletion. Similarly, all rivers of the town section in the Valley have turned into open sewer canal with discharge of untreated wastewater.
To address the above issues Melamchi Water Supply Project (MWSP) has been launched with a budget of US$500 million with major loan support from Asian Development Bank (ADB). However, it may still take many more years to bring the Melamchi water to the Valley. Moreover, it does not address water and sanitation issues of peri-urban centers. Furthermore, ADB has also implemented water and sanitation programmes eg. Urban and Environmental Improvement Project (UEIP), MWSP and Small Town Water Supply Programme. WAC programme intends to act as a complementary initiative by linking with these ongoing programmes.
Nepal is one of the signatories to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). However, studies have shown that a substantial resource gap exits to meet water and sanitation MDG. Given the increasing trend of coverage and without considering the accessibility and quality of water supplied, drinking water MDG appears to be on track. However, sanitation coverage is far off the track. Therefore, efforts to localise water and sanitation MDG can significantly contribute to meet the target.
In this context, UN-HABITAT initiated WAC-Nepal programme after a invitation from Ministry of Physical Planning and Works (MPPW), His Majesty's Government of Nepal (HMG/N) in 2004. The main objective of the WAC-Nepal programme is to demonstrate innovative initiatives on water and sanitation sector which can be scaled up to meet MDG target at the local level