"Once our stream was pure, now it screams with dirt
Our ancestors used to drink water there, that story we know
Now we need to clean our city and village
For our lives, to be lived in health"
Laxmi Bika and Samjhana Bika sang this song in dedication at the "WASH MELA" - the WASH innovation fair in Surkhet, Nepal. The urgency of clean water of the song, was backed up by a diverse and engaging programme to highlight the importance of water and sanitation in the area. And the fair offered more than arts and information, it was also possible to directly connect with more than twenty innovative and enthusiast entrepreneurs, who had their WASH products and services displayed at the fair. From compostable menstrual pads to ceramic water filters and composting worms: if you want to get innovative and make improvements in WASH, Surkhet is the place to be.
A truly diverse audience
Several high-level government officials participated in the event, including the mayor and the regional minister for Water Resources and Energy Development. In their speeches, they addressed that 17% of the people in the province do not have access to safe water. There is a commitment from the responsible authorities to formulate the water safety plan and the water utility masterplan, as well as the upscaling of drinking water quality testing that is also developed by the WASH SDG Programme in Nepal.
As the first edition of its kind, the WASH MELA attracted a truly diverse audience. Additional to the government representatives the district water officer, the drinking water federation and sanitation users committee, other NGOs the national federation of handicapped people and Journalists were present. But the event also attracted many citizens living in the area: over 1200 people came by during the day.
An informational, interactive and culturally representative fair
The location was at the local school premises, which also led to the involvement of school children who prepared different presentation and art performances to voice the importance of women’s rights and their need for appropriate water and sanitation facilities. The students were very motivated to contribute to reaching the “3 stars” for the WASH facilities at their school, the best rating possible in Nepal.
"I have never seen anything like this regarding WASH happening in our area before, this fair has provided us many options for clean drinking water and safe sanitation" – a participant of WASH MELA.
Many people attending the fair were dressed in their cultural attire and were enjoying the fair with their children and family, enjoying refreshments and food from local food stalls and ice-creams. It seems safe to say that the concept of connecting WASH information, entrepreneurship and an interactive programme involving different local stakeholders is a promising concept to further improve WASH in Nepal. Hopefully, this will bring us one step further to bringing the WASH MELA song to life, and clean our city and village. For our lives, to be lived in health.
Written by Karmath Subedi and Selma Hilgersom