Contesting large-scale water supply projects at both ends of the pipe in Kathmandu and Melamchi Valleys, Nepal

Laia Domènech, Hug March, David Saurí

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


The residents of Kathmandu Valley in Nepal face increasing water shortages that worsen during the dry season. Against this situation, the Melamchi Water Supply megaproject, supported by several foreign investors, was launched in 2000 to quench Kathmanduties' thirst by bringing water from Melamchi River through a 26. km-long tunnel. After more than 10. years, progress has been very modest. Besides the political instability of the country, opposition from certain sectors of society in both the urban and rural settings has created continuous disruptions of the works. We draw on Urban Political Ecology and Environmental Justice frameworks to analyze two distinct, although interconnected, social struggles battling against the project. The first one, anchored in the urban sphere, took advantage of the entry of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists, and succeeded in bringing down Asian Development Bank's (ADB) lending condition of handing over the water supply management to a private sector operator. The second one concerns the ongoing struggle of the rural residents affected by the inter-basin transfer. Local people in the rural areas mainly advocated conservation of their source of livelihood and political recognition. In the last part, we discuss how the use of local water sources and community-based alternatives may emerge as an alternative to hegemonic models of nature-society relations and contribute to overcome such conflicts and reduce negative impacts on the environment and social injustices. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-31
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2013


  • Environmental Justice
  • International donor agencies
  • Large-scale hydraulic projects
  • Urban Political Ecology
  • Water conflicts


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