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India Rural Water Supply

September 23, 2011

Sector Overview and Challenges

Government of India (GOI) and States have expended more than $2billion per annum, providing adequate and potable water to more than 91 percent rural people in 1.5m habitations, a major accomplishment for RWSS infrastructure provision in the last few decades. Sanitation coverage, defined as access to toilets by households, has also improved, covering about 70 percent rural households. However, this expenditure does not necessarily translate into reliable, sustainable and affordable water and sanitation services. Continuing 'quality and quantity' problems along with poor operations and maintenance (O&M) standards and cost recovery are formidable constraints in achieving full coverage, resulting in 30-40% schemes periodically slipping back to "partially covered" or "not covered" status. The main challenge is switching from a build-and-rebuild approach to a build-and-expand approach where the Gram Panchayats (GPs) maintain their facilities and States invest in expanding systems to meet growing population and increasing demand for better and sustainable services. The sector challenges are:

- Decentralizing service delivery responsibilities, placing GPs and communities in the central role supported by higher levels of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI), the State government and the local private sector for facilitating, planning, monitoring and providing a range of O&M back-up services.

- Implementing sustainable local government managed models for intra-GP RWSS schemes and using State-PRI partnership models for multi-GP schemes, whilst clarifying roles and responsibilities at all levels.

- Moving the RWSS sector to recovery of O&M cost and an increasing contribution to capital costs over time.

- Scaling up the reform program, towards uniform sector financing, institutional and implementation policies, across the State.

- Integrating water supply and sanitation, with effective sanitation promotion programs for achieving 'open defecation free' clean villages.

- Addressing issues of declining groundwater and quality problems, including increased community management of scarce resources.

- Establishing M&E systems with independent reviews and social audits.

Government Program and Priorities

In order to address the sector challenges, mainly the slippages in habitations from 'fully covered' to 'partially' or 'not covered' status, the National Rural Drinking Water Program (NRDWP) guidelines emphasize the involvement of the PRIs and communities in planning, implementing and managing drinking water supply schemes, along with capacity building and M&E systems. Recently, the Ministry of Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation has prepared its long term strategic plan (2011-2022) for ensuring drinking water security to all rural households. The strategic plan aims to cover 90% of households with piped water and at least 80% of households with tap connections during this period. The strategy emphasizes achieving water security through decentralized governance with oversight and regulation, participatory planning and implementation of improved sources and schemes. Sustainable service delivery mechanisms are a central feature of the program, with State institutions or Zilla Panchayats implementing and managing large multi-village schemes, delivering bulk water to villages in water stressed areas, and GPs implementing and managing in-village and intra-Panchayat schemes. The strategy highlights source sustainability measures, water quality safety, monitoring and surveillance, convergence of different development programs, and building professional capacity at all levels. The main challenge now is the effective implementation and scaling-up of the proposed decentralized systems. On the sanitation front, the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) and the Nirmal Gram Puraskar as an incentive program with awards for 'open defecation free' villages, is an effective step by GoI for promoting sanitation facilities as well as eradicating open defecation practices with information and awareness raising campaigns. However, the full potential of this campaign has yet to be realized.

World Bank Support

Over last twenty years, the World Bank has partnered with GoI and seven states, implementing nine RWSS projects in India: First Maharashtra (1991-1998), First Karnataka RWSS (1993-2000), First Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand RWSS (1996-2002), First Kerala RWSS (2001-2008), Second Karnataka RWSS (2002- ongoing with Additional Financing till 2013), Second Maharashtra RWSS (2003-2009), Second Uttarakhand RWSS Project (2006-2012), Punjab RWSS project (2007- 2012), and Andhra Pradesh RWSS (2009-2014). The nine World Bank assisted RWSS projects, contributing more than USD 1.4 billion, will potentially benefit about 24 million rural population in more than 15,000 villages in India. These can be broadly classified as three generations of projects, each one building on the lessons learnt from earlier generations and continuing to push the frontier of sector practices. Following are the main contributions:

(i) Implementing New Institutional Models at Scale: These projects have demonstrated a number of models, starting with community driven approaches in the early 1990s (Karnataka I and UP/ Uttarakhand I), moving on to PRI centric projects in the early 2000 (Karnataka II, Maharashtra II, Kerala) and finally to Sector-wide Approaches (SWAPs) in Uttarakhand & Punjab and district-wide SWAP in Andhra Pradesh in 2007-2009. These models, particularly in the second and third generation projects, introduced important linkages between the GP Village Water Supply & Sanitation Committee (GP-VWSC) and local government (Zila Panchayat, Gram Panchayat, and Gram Sabha) for long term technical, financial and political back up support to sustainable scheme operations. Most projects, especially the SWAPs, showcase how the State Departments are gradually taking on a facilitating role promoting the adoption of reforms, building capacity and providing technical guidance, while service delivery responsibilities are being decentralized to district and village levels.

(ii) Demonstrating Inclusive Community-based, Participatory, Demand-responsive Approaches: These projects have facilitated the development and implementation of decentralized service delivery responsibilities to the PRIs. At the scheme level these included community mobilization and awareness generation, women's empowerment, hygiene and sanitation promotion, community-based planning, construction, oversight and operation, water resources management, and monitoring and evaluation. The projects have also designed special programs targeting tribal areas and SC/ST population.

(iii) Building Capacity of State Departments, Sector Institutions, Local Governments and Communities: These projects include specially identified capacity building and IEC activities targeting stakeholders at all levels. The projects have identified local institutions for developing training modules for planning, designing and implementing the schemes, including technical, managerial aspects, procurement and financial management of schemes.

(iv) Integrating Governance and Accountability Aspects into Project Designs: Governance and accountability measures have been introduced in the planning, implementation and O&M phases for independent monitoring, technical, financial and social audits. Specially designed grievance redressal measures are included for addressing complaints by the villagers. In addition, comprehensive monitoring and evaluation programs have captured inputs, processes, outputs and outcomes under these projects.

(v) Improving Sustainability - Financially, Source-wise, Service Delivery and Community Satisfaction: Communities are involved right from the planning stage to ensure schemes are designed and implemented as per their needs and affordability. The token community contribution towards capital cost (in cash and/or kind) promotes ownership of the design of scheme, and agreement for affordable O&M cost which is later recovered through user charges except in the case of high cost schemes which need to be subsidized. The projects focus on integrating approaches for scheme and source sustainability, water supply and sanitation, for maximizing sustainable water supply services with health and hygiene benefits to the communities.

(vi) Designing and Implementing Sector-wide Programs (SWAPs) to Scale-up Reforms: One of the most challenging issues in the sector today is how to scale up reforms demonstrated under earlier projects and to replace the multiplicity of parallel programs. The latest World-Bank assisted RWSS project are supporting State and District RWSS SWAPs, moving away from a project driven mode to a more programmatic approach for implementing uniform policies and institutions across the sector. The Uttarakhand and Punjab RWSS projects are supporting uniform policies and institutional arrangements across the state and sector, while the AP RWSS project is supporting uniform policies and institutions across six districts.

(vii) Enabling Achievement of 'Open Defecation Free' Clean Villages through Effective Sanitation Programs: Similarly sanitation and environmental sanitation programs, following Community Led Total Sanitation principles, are integrated to improve household and village sanitation. Specially designed IEC and capacity building programs are implemented for raising health and hygiene awareness at the household and village levels. Safe sanitation technologies are promoted through sector institutions and support organizations.