Current situation of water resource utilization in Nepal [Updated 2024]


Current situation of water resource utilization in Nepal

Current Situation of Hydroelectricity:

As of mid-2024, Nepal has significantly expanded its hydroelectric capacity. The total installed capacity has surpassed 2,800 MW, with major contributions from projects like the 456 MW Upper Tamakoshi, which became fully operational in August 2021. This progress marks a substantial increase from earlier figures, with over 1,233 MW previously reported by mid-March 2020. The majority of generated hydroelectricity is connected to the national grid, facilitating broader distribution across the country. However, some remote areas, particularly in Karnali and Sudurpaschim provinces, still lack access to electricity, highlighting the need for continued investment to achieve the sustainable development goal of universal energy access by 2030​.

Category Total Installed Capacity (MW)
Hydroelectricity connected to the National Grid 2,700
Hydroelectricity not connected to the National Grid 100
Total 2,800

The first hydro project in Nepal is the Pharping hydroelectricity project (500 KW), installed in 1911 A.D. Today, hydroelectricity is accessible to all 77 districts of the country and the people who benefitted from it are about 90% of the total population. However, 3 municipalities and 38 rural municipalities from Karnali Province and 6 municipalities and 25 rural municipalities from Sudurpaschim Province do not have access to electricity. Therefore, further investment is needed in this sector to achieve the sustainable development goal of making easy access to energy to all populations by 2030 A.D.

Analyzing sector-wise consumption of electricity in the fiscal year 2023/24, the household sector consumed 44.1%, the industrial sector 35.2%, the commercial sector 8.5%, and the miscellaneous sector 12.2%.

Some of the major hydropower projects are:

Project Name Capacity (MW)
Upper Tamakoshi 456
Arun III 900
Tanahu 144
Upper Arun 1,061
Upper Tamor 285
Tila-1 440
Tila-2 420
Upper Marsyangdi 1 138
Upper Khudi 26
Middle Kaligandaki 53.5

Source: A Year in Review (2023), NEA

Current Situation of Irrigation:

Irrigation is an important use of water resources. The expansion of irrigation facilities can lead to crop integration and crop diversification which can help to create employment opportunities and to reduce poverty.

In Nepal, the total geographical area is 14,751,600 hectares, with around 2,641,000 hectares (17.9% of the total area) being suitable for arable agriculture. The potential irrigable area using surface and groundwater sources is about 1,766,000 hectares (67% of arable land). As of the fiscal year 2023/24, 1,579,456 hectares of land have irrigation facilities.

Type Land Irrigated (Hectares) Percent
Surface Irrigation 840,000 53.2%
Underground Irrigation 520,000 32.9%
Traditional Channels 211,240 13.4%
Others 8,216 0.52%
Total 1,579,456 100%

Source: MOALD, 2023/24

Due to the lack of availability of sufficient amount of water in the source and delay in implementation of the projects of water transfer and multi-purpose water reservoir projects, it is distressing to note that only 35% of areas of irrigated land are estimated to get year-round irrigation facility.

Some of the major irrigation projects of the country are as follows:

1. Bagmati Irrigation Project
2. Purbi Rapti Irrigation Project
3. Mahakali Irrigation Project
4. Bhairahawa Lumbini Irrigation Project
5. Chandra Mohan Irrigation Project
6. Narayani Irrigation Project
7. Sikta Irrigation Project
8. Rajapur Irrigation Project
9. Babai Irrigation Project
10. Sunsari Morang Irrigation Project

Current Situation of Drinking Water:

Drinking water is essential for human existence. Nepal has abundant natural resources in the form of water.

The major sources of drinking water in Nepal include piped water, tube wells, springs, and other sources. Piped water alone constitutes about 50% of the total drinking water supply in Nepal. The systematic drinking water system began in 1951 A.D. with the construction of the Bir Dhara project.

By the end of the 15th Plan (2019/20-2023/24), around 95% of Nepal's population had access to safe drinking water facilities. However, this figure includes older projects that may no longer be functional. The 16th Plan (2024/25-2028/29) aims to further improve this by targeting universal access to safe drinking water, aiming to cover 100% of the population.

Despite these efforts, challenges remain, particularly in remote and underdeveloped regions such as Sudurpaschim and Karnali, where access to drinking water and sanitation facilities is still inadequate. The government, in collaboration with various international organizations, continues to work towards improving water supply systems and ensuring sustainable access to safe drinking water for all.


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