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Nepal has undergone rapid urbanization in the last two decades with the urban population growing at an average rate of 6.5% per annum – the highest growth rate in South Asia (UNEP,2001). About 15% of the country’s population now lives in towns. As a result of this rapid urban growth, the Government of Nepal created an additional 22 municipalities in 1997 in accordance with the Municipality Act 1983. Although many smaller municipalities continue to be settlements with rural characteristics, urbanization in Nepal is often characterized by unplanned and haphazard growth. This situation has resulted in a lack of basic infrastructure such as quality roads, sanitation, and drinking water. In addition, this unplanned growth can cause environmental problems such as air and water pollution, public space and riverbank encroachment. Unless timely development interventions are made, many municipalities are destined to grow into large, crowded cities with poor quality of life for the inhabitants who will be faced with inadequate infrastructure.
In accordance with the decentralization policy of Nepal, the Local Self-Governance Act 1999 gives municipalities’ complete responsibility for local-level planning and decision-making. Planning and management of resources and infrastructure at the local level need to be based on accurate and up-to-date information and to use modern techniques that enable complex analysis and assessment. Geographic information systems (GIS) are increasingly being seen as versatile tools in urban applications and decision support systems. The study presented here demonstrates how GIS can help in integrating and analyzing various types of information that are important for municipal-level planning (especially focusing on the drinking water distribution for this project). Kirtipur Municipality, which is close to Nepal’s two largest municipalities of Kathmandu and Lalitpur and has all the characteristics of rapid and haphazard growth, was chosen as an example for the study.

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