Sacred Stream: Expedition on Nepal’s Bagmati River

Mission: Water | Sacred Stream: Expedition on Nepal's Bagmati River

It’s incredible what people can accomplish when they set their sights on something bigger than themselves. Check out the latest article from Mission: Water magazine that follows the story of how the Biosphere Association and Nepal River Conservation Trust (NRCT) made the first openly available survey of Kathmandu’s pollution in the Bagmati.

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Below is a short teaser:

The Bagmati is both a sacred river and a city sewer, running through Nepal’s capital city of Kathmandu before heading into the mountains and over the Indian border. Since 2013, thousands of volunteers have gathered along the Bagmati for weekly river clean-ups on Saturday mornings, and the 100th cleaning event on April 11, 2015 drew more than 100,000 locals to the river’s banks.

The next day, a group of students and hydrologists embarked on a 10-day, 160 km (100 mile) hike along the 600x300-blog-main-sacred-streamBagmati from Chovar—the point where the river leaves the Kathmandu Valley—to the Indian border. Sampling every 5 km along the route, where the landscape permitted, the UK-based Biosphere Association and Kathmandu’s Nepal River Conservation Trust made the first openly available survey of the downstream effects of Kathmandu’s pollution in the Bagmati.

The expedition was a massive undertaking, both physically and logistically.

“It was sort of the Nepalese river equivalent of going up one of their mountains,” marvels Lee Pimble, European Hydrology Manager for Xylem Analytics, who traveled to Nepal to train the team on hydrometric sampling at the request of organizer Carol Milner, founder of the Biosphere Association.

Local Heroes

Milner, who is based in the U.K. but has many friends in Nepal, was touched by the impact of pollution in the Bagmati— particularly on its impact on poor residents, who cannot afford clean water but also can’t rely on the fouled river to supply their needs.

In 2010, she asked a local when the trash in the river would be removed, and was told that the monsoon would soon wash it to India. That was the last straw.

“I wanted to give assistance to those already fighting to make a change for the future,” Milner says. Delving deeper into the challenges facing the Bagmati, Milner found that water levels in the river were dropping precipitously. Rock mining was altering the porosity of the substrate and changing the flow of the water table. Draws for growing communities, irrigation and industry decreased river flows, and some studies indicated that recharge was decreasing.

Local hydrologists needed data on the river’s flow to create a baseline along the river, explore changes in pollution and fill in blanks in hydrological station readings that are vital to understanding flood risk in the river’s basin.”

Mission: Water is a new magazine featuring the organizations and researchers who tackle the world’s most challenging water issues. It highlights the latest trends in instrumentation and research applications, while also offering additional educational resources on environmentally-focused matters.

Our goal is to help you stay informed about topics relevant to you. Our inaugural edition will cover articles ranging from monitoring Nepal’s sacred rivers to examining coral bleaching events off the coast of Panama; research on fish diversity and nutrient recycling in Africa’s Lake Tanganyika and much more!

Download the edition for free!


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