Expanding access to improved water sources through watercredit - A report on the stakeholders engagement forum, organised by water.org, New Delhi,19th February 2013

This one day session on the challenges faced in access to water and improved water sources through water credit initiatives was organised by water.org

Uday Shankar from water.org welcomed the audience and introduced the issue of access to safe water and sanitation. Gary White, water.org, set the tone of the seminar by explaining his organisation’s vision of ‘getting safe water’ for everyone. He explained the concept of water credit, which is a microfinance-based watercredit initiative that sees rural people as citizens and customers and offers them the financial power to access safe drinking water and basic sanitation services.

Water credit initiative in India-89% borrowers are women:Rich Thorsten, water.org

Rich Thorsten then went on to elaborate on watercredit and how it works in India. He explained how microfinance loans are given for the purpose of water and sanitation in terms of smart (start ups, product development) and strategic subsidies ( softwares, capacity building etc.)

The average loan size in India is about Rs 7500, average loan term is around 15 months and the effective interest rate is 16.7%. Data interpretation also brought about an interesting fact that about 89% of the borrowers are women and sanitation loans are 54% as against water loans at 38%. He also clarified that this loan rate is contextual, and depended upon the proposed location and object of construction.

Challenges in expanding water access via  water credit: Avudai Nayakam, water.org

Nayakam from water.org spoke on the challenges and issues faced in expanding water access via watercredit. These included decline in water sources, income level variation, political support and availability of local funds. He explained how water loans are income saving and not income generating loans.

Provision of 24 x 7 water availabilty in projects in Hubli & Nagpur: Brune Poirson, Veolia water India 

Taking the stage for Panel I discussion, Brune Poirson, Veolia water India, spoke on their company’s experiences in a pilot project in Hubli for providing 24 hr water supply. In Maharashtra the company is in PPP mode with the Nagpur municipal authority and is providing 24 x 7 water, where earlier the water supply was intermittent and irregular. She stated that the water source remained the same as before; it is 40 % of the unidentified flow water that was lost earlier, which has been regained.

Agriculture uses 80% of total groundwater extracted:Rahul Bokare, Arghyam

Rahul Bakare from Arghyam, spoke on the groundwater mining rampant in the country, with at least 3.5 crore wells/tubewells existing today. Irrigation through groundwater is much higher than that through surface water irrigation. He elaborated how groundwater extraction can be reduced by changing crop patterns,  as agriculture uses 80% of total groundwater extracted. Groundwater though an invisible source needs to be treated as a common pool resource.

Safe, affordable water through rainwater harvesting structures:Subhash Jain , Safe water network

Subhash Jain, Safe water Network, reiterated how providing sops to the farmer encourages mining of groundwater, further depleting its level. He explained how water security at household levels can be attained through the construction of tanks and by reviving common water storage structures like pond, talab, naadi etc.

In the Panel II discussion regarding water quality management, Arumugam, from Water for people, spoke on the various pollutants, water contamination and their health based effects. He highlighted the fact that as groundwater levels dip alarmingly iron contamination increases and also how about 40% sources in the country are fluoride contaminated.

Water quality, tests and household water treatment options :Dr Mariapan, TWAD,Board, Trichy

Dr Mariappan spoke on rainwater harvesting, different types of available filters like the Tripura filter suitable for household purposes and Kanchan filter, used for arsenic removal. He explained a simple practical method for checking water quality- it should be colourless, odourless, and when the bottle is shaken, the bubbles must disappear within 60 seconds. He also mentioned a government site mdws.gov.in which can be utilised to check water quality data of any particular village.

Water for the urban poor riddled with health risks & financial losses leading to increased conflicts:A J James, WES-NET India

Water for the urban poor was taken up by AJ James, WES-NET India. He elaborated on how the problem of no service and poor service was compounded in the urban slums, with health risks, molestation cases and more financial loss due to purchase of water, leading to water conflicts. Though the duty-bound government has both the mandate and the resources to work here, the private sector too is introducing innovative products, marketing strategies & supply chains.

Mathew Titus of Sa-Dhan spoke on how pilot projects need to be carried out in the country, which could then be scaled up. For this at least a million address challenges are needed, and even then there is no guarantee for success and he hoped that MFI bill would come into force soon. However instead of trying to fit in a western solution, he emphasized that is advisable to work systematically and find a solution pertinent to Indian conditions. For this dialogue with the government is both essential and critical.

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