Site History and Significance
Water Access in the Kathmandu Valley
In the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal, nearly 20% of residents do not have access to water within their homes and must seek their daily supply elsewhere. While more than 70% of the valley’s population relies on piped underground water, in recent years Kathmandu water purveyors have provided water only intermittently, sometimes just a few days a month, with increasing severity of monsoons further interrupting supply.
The Potential of Traditional Water Fountains
Given these challenges, traditional public water fountains, known as dhunge dhara or hitis, are essential to the local population. Dating from as far back as the sixth century CE, the system of hitis has been a permanent fixture throughout the Kathmandu valley. The ornate fountains are typically carved in the form of Hindu and Buddhist mythical creatures known as hitimanga, or makara in Sanskrit, and provided nearly three million liters of water per day as recently as 2008. Today, only a portion of extant hitis still provide water, and continuing development threatens their existence.
2022 World Monuments Watch
The 2022 World Monuments Watch includes the Hitis of the Kathmandu Valley in an effort to raise awareness of this essential network of traditional water fountains and call for their enhanced protection, as well as support improved management of the underground aquifers and water table that feed them.
Through the World Monuments Watch, WMF collaborates with local partners to design and implement targeted conservation programs—including advocacy, planning, education, and physical interventions in the historic built environment—to improve human well-being through cultural heritage preservation.
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