Rooftop rainwater harvesting for rural schools in Karnataka - Need experiences of participatory processes undertaken by state governments

From S. Vishwanath, Arghyam and Rainwater Club, Bangalore
Posted 4 April 2008

I work as advisor, Rainwater Club and Arghyam. We work to promote rainwater harvesting in urban areas, to partly solve the water crisis that many cities and towns face. Rainwater harvesting is widespread in different parts of India, and is a low-cost, local solution to perennial water shortages.

In the Visioning Workshop of the Water Community, held in March 2007, we had discussed the Suvarnajala Programme of the Karnataka state government to provide drinking water to schools through rooftop rainwater harvesting in schools. I had proposed an Action Group to discuss how to make the programme more effective and feed back into its processes.

The state government started a Rs. 74 crore rooftop rainwater harvesting ‘Suvarnajala’ to provide drinking water to 23,683 schools with money from the ‘Bharat Nirman’ programme. ‘Over the ground’ rainwater storage tanks were proposed, with capacities of 3,000 to 10,000 liters, to collect, filter, store rainwater and provide each student 1.5 liters of drinking water. Arghyam has tried to understand and improve project’s effectiveness. It created a partnership of civil society groups in 7 districts for this purpose. The group identified problems and worked out a strategy to optimize the investment after surveying all schools.

The survey revealed the following problems:

  • Lack of a genuine need-based approach in selection of schools, the final list seems to have covered almost half of the rural schools
  • Does not seem to have been any consultation with the Gram Panchayat or the School Development Management Committee (SDMC) about the programme, and therefore, there is no buy-in
  • Technical design is ‘one size fits all’ and has not taken into consideration factors such as the appropriateness of an over ground tank, space, ground water recharge, etc
  • No protocol has been developed for maintenance, water quality testing and treatment
  • Seems to have been an underinvestment in genuinely deserving cases because the resources have been spread too thin, and investments have been made in schools that already had a reliable source of water
  • It has turned out into a rainwater tank construction programme rather than a programme to provide drinking water to school children

Given the advanced status of the Programme, the challenge is tailoring these structures to at least partly meet desired goals; we request members share their experiences and insights on the following:

  • Provide examples of when state governments have evolved a truly participatory process of delivering services (such as rainwater harvesting in schools)
  • Discuss how NGOs could help the Suvarnajala programme meet the overall goal of better water and sanitation access in schools, as well the possibility of programme providing supplemental water for both drinking and sanitation in schools

The inputs will be compiled into a set of recommendations for the state government. We will arrange a consultation with officials to present the findings and discuss how they can be incorporated into the programme. The publication and the government’s feedback will be shared with the members of the Water Community.

Please see attachment below for the responses.