Politicians for reform - Proceedings of the State Water Ministers’ workshop on rural water supply policy reforms in India - Cochin (Kerala) - (1999)

The workshop was hosted by Government of Kerala and the Water and Sanitation Program, South Asia with the Government of India, The World Bank Institute and the World Bank was held at Cochin, Kerala from December 7th to December 8th, 1999.

Sixty-five delegates from 14 States, including 11 State Ministers, senior civil servants from the Government of India and State Governments, NGOs and External Support Agencies participated in the workshop.The primary objective of the workshop was to build consensus on how to implement the policy reforms laid out by the Government of India and participants were encouraged to apply the reforms to their own States.

The objectives of the workshop included:

  • To initiate a dialogue with key decision-makers on policy reforms in rural water supply
  • To sensitize participants to the reasons for policy reform, and the consequences of not reforming, by sharing experiences of successful initiatives in India and of policy reforms in other countries
  • To understand the political perspective in the rural water supply sector and try to move towards consensus on issues
  • To give the rural water supply sector a higher profile in both the Government of India and the State Governments

The workshop started with an inauguration ceremony, which was followed by a group exercise that was conducted to elicit the perceptions of the different stakeholders groups on some of the issues facing the water sector. The sessions included:

  • State of rural water in India: The objective of this session was to get a snapshot of the perceptions of various stakeholder groups of the rural water supply situation in India and compare these to “reality”.
  • Best practices in the sector: Lessons from international experiences in rural water supply were shared during this session
  • Action steps for reform: After building consensus on the state of the water sector in India, and learning lessons from best practice, workshop participants resolved to tackle the most challenging aspect of reform: developing action steps for rural water supply policy reforms. Group discussion led to a joint participatory authoring of the Cochin Declaration

Action steps proposed by the participants included involving communities, especially women, in decision-making and project implementation, promoting costsharing between users and the Government and decentralizing project implementation to village water committees and Panchayati Raj Institutions.

The workshop culminated in the endorsement of the Cochin Declaration. The declaration lays down key reform principles and sets out strate-gic actions by which these principles can be implemented. The workshop built consensus at an unprecedented political level on ways to forward the reform process.

A copy of the report can be accessed from here