World Bank Approves $248 Million for Improving Rural Water and Sanitation Services in Punjab, India – Over 8 million people to benefit

March 24, 2015

A water connection and a toilet for every rural household by end of the project

WASHINGTON, March 24, 2015 - The World Bank today approved a $248 million loan for the Punjab Rural Water and Sanitation Sector Improvement Project to help the state significantly improve its delivery of water and sanitation services as well as reduce open defecation to improve the quality of life in rural Punjab.

The project will aim for a water connection and a toilet for every rural households by end of the project period, which would be a first for any state in India.

It will also include a minimum of 10 hours of water supply daily, a toilet for all those households without a toilet, sewerage systems in over 315 villages and supply safe water from surface water to over 121 villages that are currently drinking water contaminated with uranium and other heavy metals which are causing serious illnesses like cancer. The project will help the government’s water department to reorganize and focus on service delivery.

Today, only 31 percent of the 167 million rural households in India have access to tap water and domestic toilets (Census 2011). About 67 percent of the rural population continues to defecate in the open and India accounts for about 50 percent of the world’s open defecation. The project is expected to directly benefit an estimated 8.47 million rural people in Punjab, including over 4 million female beneficiaries and 2.44 million beneficiaries belonging to the scheduled castes. It will also support the water quality affected districts in the state.

While Punjab has high coverage for water (95 percent) and sanitation (71.0 percent), the rural water and sanitation sector in the state still continues to face major challenges. A large number of water supply schemes are serving only a limited population with house connections. The rapidly deteriorating water quality in the state is also leading to serious health problems. Roughly 29 percent of water supply schemes face water quality issues.


The project which will be implemented over a six-year period will support the government in addressing these challenges. It will help reorganize the department of water supply and sanitation to focus on service delivery rather than on asset creation through minor upgrades for improving efficiency, free house connections; progressively scale up service levels to achieve 100 percent meter connections for all rural households with at least 10 hours of daily supply with volumetric based charging; and encourage toilet construction. Special focus will be on schemes that are underperforming in order to build their capacity and ownership. These “low cost and high impact” activities are expected to benefit women and children who are otherwise responsible for daily water collection and storage.  

“Over four million women in Punjab, who today bear the burden of securing daily water supplies and deal with poor sanitation facilities, will benefit from this project. They will have access to more reliable and better quality water supply and sanitation facilities in their own households,” said Onno Ruhl, World Bank Country Director for India. “The project will reduce the time spent by women in collecting water, which they can now use in other productive ways.”

Today, the quality of water in Punjab is among the worst when compared to other Indian states. Of the 9,096 schemes tested, 1,717 failed due to the presence of uranium and other heavy metals, and 891 do not meet basic parameters. The project will strengthen water quality monitoring methods and develop mitigation measures. It will finance cost-effective retrofitting of water schemes with engineering solutions to treat arsenic, fluoride, and iron in some 121 villages and construct surface water supply schemes to supply safe drinking water in districts such as Moga and Barnala where most of the villages are affected by uranium and other heavy metals. These district-wide schemes will treat water from good surface sources like large canals and deliver the treated water to the village boundary for internal distribution by the gram panchayat water supply and sanitation committee.  

Over 625,000 households in the state still lack toilets.  The sanitation component will provide a subsidy to every toilet-less household to construct a toilet coupled with information, education, and communication (IEC) to trigger the behavioral change necessary to achieve Open Defecation Free (ODF) status at the village level.

“The World Bank has been supporting the government of India in piloting and scaling up RWSS Programs since 1991, contributing more than $1.4 billion and benefitting about 24 million rural households in over 15,000 villages. The earlier World Bank-supported Punjab Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project has demonstrated that higher levels of service were possible in rural India, including over 10 hours of supply in 109 villages in Punjab, 24x7 supply in 90 villages and a large number of schemes with 100% connections are being managed by local community groups recovering full costs. Despite these achievements, Punjab continues to face major challenges in the water and sanitation sector. This project aims to strengthen the decentralization processes initiated under the previous project and provide better services,” said Srinivasa Rao Podipireddy, Senior Water and Sanitation Specialist and the project’s task team leader.

The loan, from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), has a 5-year grace period, and a maturity of 18 years.

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