Solution Exchange discussion: Inputs for the Approach Paper to the 12th Five Year Plan

Compiled by Nitya Jacob, Resource Person and Sunetra Lala, Research Associate

From Vijay Krishna, Arghyam, Bangalore

Posted 7 January 2011

Arghyam, WaterAid and the Water Community held a series of meetings in November and December 2010 around the country to discuss inputs for the approach paper to the 12th Five Year Plan. There were six regional meetings and a national meeting in Delhi (The proceedings from the regional meetings are available here -, ZIP, 350 Kb. Conducted at the behest of Planning Commission Member Dr. Mihir Shah, around 290 practitioners from the grassroots, including panchayat members, participated in these meetings. The discussions were on drinking water sources, drinking water supply, sanitation, governance and external factors that influence water and sanitation in rural areas. The Commission also supported the process and Dr. Shah attended the national consultation.

People identified the issues, and made suggestions and recommendations. These were compiled and presented to the Planning Commission at the end of December. We are circulating these recommendations for your comments to seek further inputs that will be sent to the Commission. Kindly go through the file, PDF, 650 Kb and respond to the issues, suggestions and recommendations in the five themes. The file is a consolidation of the discussions at the regional meetings by experts who attended the national consultation.

Some pointers are the themes identified for discussion and the broad issues that emerged. You may also look at the suggestions and recommendations provided in the document for comment. Different regions have highlighted different issues, as expected, but there are common points across the regions as mentioned in the document. Please suggest any you feel have been left out or inadequately covered. You may want to keep the following considerations in mind:

1.      For existing or new suggestions please state which different organizations/individuals should be involved and how.

2.      How can they be financed?

3.      Has the issue been worked on before? If so, by whom and what were the results?

We will compile and submit these to the Planning Commission as additional inputs.

Responses were received, with thanks, from

1.     Prakash Kumar, Department of International Development-SWASTH, Patna

2.     Abhishek Mendiratta, Jupiter Knowledge Management and Innovative Concepts Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi

3.     B.P.Syam Roy, Former Special Secretary, Development and Planning, Government of West Bengal, West Bengal

4.     Ramesh Sakthivel, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi , New Delhi

5.     S C Jain, Action for Food Production (AFPRO), New Delhi

6.     Manoj Kumar Teotia, Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID), Chandigarh

7.     Seema Kulkarni, Society for Promoting Participative Ecosystem Management (SOPPECOM), Pune

8.     Ratnakar GedamAdviser (Retired), Planning Commission, New Delhi

9.     Mohan Paul PrabhuSvaraj, Bangalore

10. Ramakrishna Nallathiga, Centre for Good Governance, Hyderabad

11. Bharti Patel, Svaraj, Bangalore*

* Offline Contribution

Summary of Responses

Panchayats are the institution of choice when it comes to delivering drinking water and improving sanitation at the village level. However, there remain serious capacity and financial issues regarding their ability to do the job. One way to provide them funds is to set up a revolving fund supported by the government and simultaneously train them to calculate and levy user charges.

That said, there is a need for realistic targets commensurate with the amount of finances available. For example, in Bihar only three per cent of households have piped water supply but the target is 55 per cent that will need an estimated Rs 15000 crore a year; the current budget allocation is just Rs 250 crores. The discussion suggests the need for financial sustainability of existing schemes since this has made most rural water schemes unviable. As the need for finance is potentially boundless, the strategy should set goals according to realistic financial envelopes.

Additionally, “things have to be done differently” and a business as usual approach will not work. If the idea is to cover 95 er cent of the population with piped water supply, the government will have to effect a major shift in approach, resources and institutional set up. This means simply allocating more money to rural water supply and sanitation will not achieve the coverage figures the government desires. Nor will it make their provision any more equitable and accessible to the rural poor and excluded groups.

A major gap is the lack of information, and where this exists, it is often of poor quality. Better information is critical to understand where, how and why exclusion takes place. The mapping exercise can include a community mapping methodology with orientation and sensitization of people involved in mapping and cover a range of issues in addition to water and sanitation such as gender, caste, age, culture, income, land, etc. This will help people and the government understand the social constructs around water and sanitation.

While policies are made through a participatory process and the final document is comprehensive and well-written, implementation is exactly the opposite, according to a member. This is borne out by a study in Maharashtra in which just 46 per cent people have only public sources of water while the rest use private sources. Tribals get 34 litres per capita per day (lpcd) while upper castes get as much as 90 lpcd. There is a suggestion for using community-based monitoring (CBM) tool to balance out these inequities. For example, this has made a difference in health sector delivery in Maharashtra when used in conjunction with people's movements and NGOs. CBM is a participatory process in which communities from the village up to the state monitor the status of domestic water services in their regions. The government can finance CBM in a few districts on a pilot basis.

Operation and maintenance is another major issue. While gram panchayats can manage hand pumps and other schemes within a single village, they are not the best institution for handling multi-village schemes. PHED or its equivalent can continue handling such schemes.This has to be viewed against the viability of such schemes especially in areas where groundwater is not of drinking quality, where greater control and advanced treatment technology is needed. The Department can also continue to provide back-stopping support to panchayats in maintenance; one suggestion is bifurcate PHED into an implementation agency and a society for O&M. At the village level, there are several instances across the country where NGOs have trained handpump mistries; the government can consider scaling these up.

To improve operation and maintenance, the government can explore a public-private partnership (PPP) model. However, the government has to use caution while working out PPP modalities since revenues are usually over-stated while costs under-estimated to attract private companies. This makes such PPP projects unviable from the start and defeats the purpose for which O&M contracts are awarded. PPP projects also need careful monitoring. The Plan can an explicit provision for involving the private sector to bring in their own models of technology, finances and organization at least in some of the areas like drinking water (while providing for other domestic water supply by local governments/panchayats).

Additionally, there is little mention of traditional or natural water sources that panchayats may be better at maintaining; in fact, the government can prioritise their rejuvenation since this usually more cost-effective than identifying and developing an entirely new source. An suggested approach is to have region-specific demand assessments matched against local sources that is then shared with the people to plan and prevent waste of water. To assist panchayats, the government could initiate decision support measures such as creating a mechanism to provide simple information on locally relevant topics such as aquifer boundaries. It can train panchayats on water budgeting that will help people understand the dynamics of water resources.

The over-use and consequent decline of groundwater is another major area of concern. Several suggestions related to controlling this, but not through conventional approaches such as legislation, that has largely failed. Instead, better local water quantity assessment by involving the community can help them understand the groundwater situation and control its exploitation; the emphasis is on demand management rather than wielding the stick. If communities manage groundwater better, it will be available more equitably and the poor and marginalised will have better access to water.

Another factor is the water-energy nexus. One of the major reasons for groundwater depletion is free power to farmers; they leave pumpsets on in the hope of getting water whenever the power comes. An example from the Doddaballapur block, Bangalore rural district, Karnataka, shows how people have their own way to extract groundwater for irrigation when power is available; they store water in fields in the fear that there may be no power when they need water for irrigation. This has caused the aquifer to fall by 1.8 m in the area.

The low level of school sanitation is a cause for concern. Despite the government’s initiatives, this remains poor. The training and human resources in the field remain poor. To solve this, the government can revive rural sanitary marts by involving self-help groups and establish knowledge centres at the district and block levels. Much more needs to be done so ensure all households have even basic sanitation even though the Total Sanitation Campaign has achieved a lot already. Rich households can use as much as 240 litres of water a day for flushing toilets while on the other hand, a shortage of water is the major reason for unsanitary conditions for the poor.

As women have the largest burden in providing water for domestic use, and suffer the most from a lack of toilets or sanitation facilities at home, they have to be part of the planning and implementation process. The government has to ensure that there is at least 50 per cent participation of women. Another approach is to adopt integrated water resources management that will help shift away from the current paradigm in the sector to a more inclusive and sustainable one. This makes a provision for ecological flows in water projects that are often overlooked in the current process.

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Responses in Full 

Prakash Kumar, Department of International Development-SWASTH, Patna

I have gone through the Arghyam documents and also the strategy paper of GOI. My quick comments are:

1. The timeline indicated in the strategy paper is not linked with the availability of resources. In the first timeline, that is also relevant to next 5 year planning i.e. by 2017, 55 % HH with piped water supply ( 35 % with piped HH connection).How it is possible in the states particularly like Bihar where the current piped water supply coverage is only 3 %. This requires a huge resources and delivery mechanism. How it will be in place? Roughly 10000 to 15000 crore is required only for Bihar to reach the first milestone at current costing. The current budget pattern is only 200-250 crores per year. Therefore it is also necessary to link this target/milestone with the available resources and a separate planning for backward states like Bihar .

2. O & M is a big issue in rural water supply schemes. The 2017 milestone also indicates that GP to manage at least 60% of drinking water supply. Again this is very ambitious. We do not have system in place through which this can be achieved and also we need to clearly identify what is not possible by GPs? In my opinion GPs can best take up O & M of hand pumps and single village water supply schemes but not prepared at all for multi village schemes and schemes in quality affected areas and water stressed areas, where greater control and treatment technologies are needed. There are many issues ranging from legislation to delivery has to be fixed before GPs can take up these responsibilities. Let us get realistic in this regard. Putting everything to GP is pushing responsibilities down where no accountability exists.

3. The strategy is also silent on rejuvenation of traditional /natural systems. There has been some mention about it but no emphasis has been provided.

4. There is an urgent need for exploring/devising alternative mechanism for O & M of water supply schemes in rural areas like   PPP, BOLT etc.

5. It should be made mandatory for use of surface water where it is available. It is important to map out the surface water potential for drinking water supply schemes.

6. It is a welcome suggestion for dual water supply sachems in quality affected areas and giving priority to alternative source for arsenic and fluoride treatment in place of treatment technologies.

7. Central knowledge nodes are required to guide/assist states in developing mitigation plans for quality affected areas. Multiple national/international treatment systems based on different type of media whose effectiveness is not tested/verified is being piloted in many states. States lack knowledge in selecting appropriate technology.

8. Promoting common water policy is a major challenge and there need to be clarity on this how states will adopt this since regulatory authority will come into force only after adoption of this all important policy.

9. Effective VWSC is needed but it needs clarity at centre and state level that whether it should be part of GP or an independent entity. There is another village committee being promoted under   NRHM. There is an urgent need to look into this and create one committee at village level that will look into health, watsan and nutrition.

10. Effective mapping is required for socially excluded communities and geographically excluded areas using relevant application and other tools.

11. I fully agree with the proposed suggestion for a dedicated staff at GP level for watsan, as Jal Sevak.

12. Revisiting the legal authority of GP and comprehensive plan for institutional capacity is required.

13. Linking sanitation with health should be given highest policy support for monitoring and also capacity building of medical officers on water related disease and its prevention and treatment.

14. One of the suggestions that comes form regional consultation is to link NAREGA with use of toilets. It can be implemented in right earnest.

15. Capacity building of state implementing agencies should be given top priority.

16. In my personal opinion the blanket testing of quality affected all sources should be given top priority under some sort of monitoring from centre.

My last comment is improving the O & M services and response time of government department for rural water supply schemes. In this connection there is an urgent need to bifurcate the responsibility of PHED in to two, implementing and O& M. A separate O & M society or public limited company may be established to specifically handle all issues related to post implementing as an effective service provider. The recommendation from planning commission on this will be very important to take things forward.

Abhishek Mendiratta, Jupiter Knowledge Management and Innovative Concepts Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi

I appreciate the efforts of Arghyam, WaterAid and the Water Community of Solution Exchange for their facilitation of the participatory process adopted in getting the comments of large number of stakeholders from different states in developing the most appropriate approach paper. I think the links between water, energy and climate are also important and need consideration. I feel these issues are vital and can be appropriately incorporated in the proposed approach paper to the next five year plan. Energy production requires water; and supplying water requires energy. Water use and energy consumption impact on climate and changes in climate have an impact on water availability.

In order to cope with the current water challenges it is time to act responsibly in the face of growing demand for water and energy and the associated global environmental problems of climate change and diminishing freshwater resources. 

Owing to the scarcity of both these resources, impacts on the economy are large and largely underestimated. An integrated and sustainable approach for water resource planning and energy usage is urgently needed. One of the important elements of this approach should be the accelerated development and implementation of innovative technologies to reduce the water and energy footprint. There is a need to identify the problem areas and technology gaps and define the measures to bring the water and energy sector together. The policies including incentives need to be developed to ensure that the technologies to reduce the water / energy footprint are rapidly implemented. The financial sustainability requires closing the financing gap by acting both on the demand and supply sides of finance. The need for finance is potentially boundless, so sector goals should be defined according to realistic financial envelopes. The ultimate sources of finance are limited to user charges, tax-payers (budgetary resources) and international solidarity. Credible and sustainable financing strategies would identify realistic cost recovery levels and realistic subsidy flows.

The other related issues are as follows:

1.      Water and energy policies often conflict (impact on reaching targets and MDGs).

2.      Water and energy institutions, industries and markets are often disconnected.

3.      Limited accounting for water in the energy sector, despite being a major user. 

4.      Need to factor climate change impact on the water and energy nexus.

5.      Sustainability criteria (environmental, social and economic) required to address water and energy supply/demand.

6.      Drivers for water and energy services are predominantly population growth and increasing living standards (before climate change).

7.      Communities without access to modern energy are likely to be those without access to water and sanitation also.

8.      Water and energy resources are unevenly distributed; solutions are likely to be differentiated accordingly.

9.      Appropriate (new) technologies can improve performance – new developments and synergies can reduce costs and impacts. Surface water storage schemes also store energy – can influence mixed energy systems and water services.

10.   Bioenergy (linkage with agriculture energy crops, biogas, traditional biomass, waste, etc.)

11.   Irrigation – pumping can be significant energy user (electric or diesel powered).

12.   Navigation – can significantly reduce energy consumption.

13.   Need to differentiate between consumption and use of water for energy (bio-energy versus hydro-power).

14.   Water footprint different for each energy technology and service (transport, heating, power production).

15.   Energy recovery from water processing (target of energy neutrality in modern sanitation process).

16.   Role of renewable energy in treating and distributing water.

17.   Reducing energy consumption in water recycling and desalination.

18.   Energy availability and reliability essential for water services.

19.   Energy can be 60-80% of water treatment cost – efficiency and recovery key to reducing costs.

20.   Pricing water should incorporate the true (energy) cost.

21.   Cross-cutting issues: (bioenergy and agriculture – and – navigation and optimized use of water).

B.P.Syam Roy, Former Special Secretary, Development and Planning, Government of West Bengal, West Bengal

The core focus of the Approach Paper on Water needs to highlight generational changes in its environmental area and the need to put in place a new paradigm for a different push on the emerging scenario. Carrying on the baggage of the past and the baton of continuity are definitely needed for the sustainable logic but that it must undergo the process of re-education and adopt a practical solution based on expanded frontier of knowledge and research. Further, the new approach must be designed on the tenets of human development and ensure simultaneously that as a fast racing development player in the world, we reach the standard of quality along with the MDG compulsion in the area.

With this overarching perspective in view, I hazard to suggest the following:

        The existing focus on a spot water source per village needs now to be gradually phased out and entered in a new regime of micro- piped drinking water supply for a given locality based on new technology available in the area. Apart from taking care of seasonal factors, it may serve the dual purpose of quality (arsenic free) of water and inclusive-centred delivery of water services.

        The water scenario is likely to be full of stress and strains in the coming years both on demand and supply count. Region-specific demand and its possible sustainable source is an area that needs to be documented and shared with citizens for preventing its wasteful use. The water supply sources-surface and ground water- are no longer abundant and its very dynamic character calls for periodical verification. GIS based water table maps need to be periodically published for appropriate programme intervention to restore the position. Climatic change has come up as a new factor that has also to be factored in. The 12th plan must organise this big task in partnership with the Science and Technology Ministry in this area.

        For big cities and its satellite towns, the water sources are quite common. It has to be explored as to the feasibility of a Water Grid to meet such demand on a cost sharing basis.

        Citizens of this country do not get any information on the quality of water. Infrastructure facilities on water testing qualities are very inadequate. The 12th Plan may address this area.

        Another connected area is the declining water retention capacity of big reservoirs built in the bygone years. The State Governments, for various reasons including fund, hardly take up re-excavation of such national assets and thereby lose valuable water for irrigation and other use. From cost and benefit angle, the economics of return of additional water from such re-excavation would be greater than new project investment. However, without affecting the new projects, a technology driven new Mission Mode Programme could be taken up during the 12th plan.

Ramesh Sakthivel, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi , New Delhi

The recommendations reflect several areas of concern in the WATSAN sector. I would like to specifically touch upon few areas of concern with respect to sanitation.

The document very rightly points out the disproportionate state of affairs among the water and sanitation coverage. Therefore, sanitation is an urgent area that needs closer attention in the coming years. Some of the aspects which can be considered in this regard are: 

        WATSAN coverage in Schools is still an area of concern despite the impetus being given by the Govt. of India. The allocations for provision of these facilities and the maintenance aspects of these facilities need major reconsideration to make these sustainable. Also, schools which are willing promote ecological sanitation facilities (these toilets cost higher than the normal toilets) such revisions are needed.

        Capacity building initiatives and the capacities (man power) available for sanitation promotion on ground is grossly inadequate. Reorientations of the policies towards addressing these issues are urgently needed.

        Strategies for reviving RSMs/PCs (as most of these facilities created have failed to provide desired results) with the involvement of local youth/SHGs to run such outlets should be considered for instituting vibrant marketing sanitation approaches at the community level.

        Establishing state, district and block level knowledge centres which act as knowledge nodes and also undertake capacity building initiatives should be considered. Adequate resources should be ensured for year round operations of such entities.   

        Ecological sanitation and nutrient recovery from human and other solid waste generated has to be mainstreamed for ensuring food security in the light of spiralling increase in the prices of commercial fertilisers. Integrating agricultural departments in the promotion of sanitation especially on ecological sanitation and solid waste management should be considered. 

       Last but not the least, ensuring the effective functioning of the State/District/Block Water and Sanitation Missions is the need of the hour as several successful examples have emerged wherein the State/District Administrations have actively promoted sanitation as a key agenda.

S C Jain, Action for Food Production (AFPRO), New Delhi

Availability of required quantity of safe water & access to perennial sources is gradually posing serious challenges in many parts of the country. Multiple sources are available in the villages but not able to meet the required demand. This is the result of unidirectional approach adopted for water supply to create infrastructure. In the same line irrigation sources are also created at large scale either under the subsidy or private initiatives, which has direct effect on the overall resources at local level. The solution for these problems is not straight, it requires paradigm-sift in the water supply program.

So far attempt was to create sources without giving much attention on the sustainability aspects related to technical, economical, environmental and institutional.  Considering the complexity of problem, the solution has to be identified within the problem itself, that too at local level.

I agree with the recommendations of consultation organized by WaterAid, Arghyam & Water Community , Solution Exchange as these are supportive for introducing the system by which community is involved in decision making to plan, execute, operate & manage the infrastructure and regulate the water resources. The centre & states to facilitate through setting policy directions and provide regulatory framework that would empower the local bodies. 

Strategic plan document of DDWS is setting target for covering 95% population through piped water supply facilities by 2022 and only 5% population will be dependent on water supply from hand pump. This appears very ambitious if we correlate with ground realities with regard to status of water resources, institutional setup, regulatory & legal provisions.  Even to achieve half of it during the 12th plan period, would require major shift in approach and appropriately allocation of resources.

The recommendations are very much supportive of strengthening local bodies and pro to decentralizing functions, functionaries & finances for achieving the result. However, there is huge gap in capacity of local bodies to take up such responsibilities and deliver the services as desired. Therefore focus should be on strengthening of local bodies and clearly defining their role & functions. In addition to this, I would suggest following points;  

        Set up mechanism to demystify information like aquifer boundaries, water budgeting exercise etc. so that common man in the villages can understand the dynamics of water resources and take interest in decision making process. The decision support system needs to be setup at local level so that the GP members are able to take appropriate decision for regulating the water resources.

        Priority should be given to rejuvenation of traditional/natural sources and improving the efficiency of existing infrastructure through source strengthening measures and revival of facilities instead of addition of infrastructure unless it is required.

        Community need to be involved in decision making to select the best possible option which can be managed without much dependency on external agency.

        Cadre building for creating trained manpower that would facilitate GP level processes and support in mobilizing services of external agencies (service providers) for the specialized task and placing such trained person at GP exclusively for facilitation of WATSAN services is essential.

        The hand pump based water supply is found most appropriate option for the hamlets having small population and located remotely. Therefore, neglecting the operation & maintenance of it and discouraging hand pump based water supply would create dependence on expensive and more complex water supply facilities. Instead of reduction in hand pump based water supply, revival of existing sources through recharge measures and training of youths on repair & maintenance of Hand pump is a viable option. The trained manpower should be engaged on annual maintenance contract by GP for repair and maintenance of hand pumps.

        In case of multi village water supply facility, institutions like PHED, Jeevan Pradhikaran, Jal Nigam etc can be the interface for supply of water on volumetric basis to villages. The responsibility of managing distribution network in village & tariff collection from users should be with GP.

        Identification of alternative source in quality affected areas will be a better strategy than the setting up complex treatment system at community level.  

       It is well established that water-energy nexus is having prominent role in production system. The nexus is exploitative if not regulated properly; policy related to power supply should be in coherence with state water regulation. Free electricity distribution for irrigation is imposing more pressure on the water resources than the actual requirement. In many places farmers keep pumping system on and allow water extraction till power supply is available. The experience from a study carried out by AFPRO in Doddaballapur Taluka, Bangalore Rural District, Karnataka reveals that people have developed their own mechanism for extracting ground water for irrigation purpose when power supply is available. They have also made provision for storage of large volume of water in the field itself to meet the requirement in critical time. The provision of storage is made with the fear that power supply may not be available when it is required for irrigation. There is huge loss of water due to inefficient system in place. A total of 431 bore wells are functioning for irrigation of 427.3 hectare area, resulting to 1.8m average annual ground water table depletion in the area. Such cases can be noticed in other states as well. Hence it requires special attention of policy makers – what is to be subsidized, when subsidy is to be given and for whom.

Manoj Kumar Teotia, Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID), Chandigarh

The XII the Five Year Plan needs to focus on:

        Water and sanitation management with greater peoples participation.

        Form water and rural resource management societies with participation of locals to manage distribution of water and forest produce

        Construction of more and more check dams in foothills of the Shivaliks other hilly areas and villages to check sudden outflow of surface runoff during rainy seasons  

        Share of state governments and PRIs is necessary to maintain the community water infrastructure

        Schemes such as "Peoples Participation in Water Infrastructure Development" and "Peoples Participation in O&M of Water Resources" may be introduced

        Emphasis on rain water storage/supply of the same for irrigation under MGNREGA work

        Conservation of forest in sub-hilly areas and preservation of water bodies in rural areas

        Schemes such as National Water and Sanitation Guarantee or National Water and Sanitation Mission may be introduced   

        Explore possibility of networking of rivers

        PPPP (Public Private Peoples Partnership) projects may be promoted for sustainability of water   

        Sensitization of people in rural areas about water and sanitation related issues and options 

       Permanent system for regular capacity building of all stakeholders

Seema Kulkarni, Society for Promoting Participative Ecosystem Management (SOPPECOM), Pune

Thanks to the Water Community for providing the space to participate in this very interesting discussion. I went through the national consultation proceedings and all the thematic papers which have been very well developed. I think most of the crucial issues have been covered in all the thematic papers. The one on water sources is very comprehensive and I think if even 50% of that is taken into consideration we would have moved ahead a great deal.

One of the things I found missing in the discussions is the question of service delivery privatisation. Since there is an increasing trend to do so in rural, peri-urban and urban areas now, the approach paper will have to take a specific position on it if it is serious about universal access to basic water.

Given that most issues have been very well covered in the national consultation I would like to highlight just one here which I am sure has been discussed on other occasions- The need for a community based monitoring tool in domestic water Community based monitoring (CBM) As we move from one plan to the next or one programme to the next we often lose sight of what was agreed upon and what was committed in the previous plan/programme. Nonetheless we all get animated to make new policies and plans as actively as before without really taking stock of the past.

Many of us have often felt a sense of frustration over the whole process of policy formulation which is extremely participatory and often ends up as a well written document but becomes just the opposite when it comes to its implementation. Partly this feeling is based on a recent study that SOPPECOM did in one district of Maharashtra to see the outreach of domestic water schemes. Our data shows that only 46% of our sample has access to public sources (includes handpumps, public wells, tankers, piped water schemes) the rest depend on private sources; the variation in access to water ranges from 34 lpcd among tribals to 90 lpcd among open castes; more than 90% of the households reported women fetching water and those who depend on public sources or on other peoples private sources spend on an average one and half hours daily to fetch water and travel about 300 mts for water. This in a progressive state of India leading in its per capita incomes This suggestion here for a community based monitoring tool partly comes from this sense of lack which many of us engaged in policy discourse have been feeling over the years. CBM seems like a small space within the system's framework to improve accountability and public services.

This suggestion for developing a tool for community based monitoring in water is largely drawn on the experience of community based monitoring successfully administered in the health services under the NRHM, of course with dedicated and persistent participation of people's movements and NGOs working in the sector. In the health sector and especially in Maharashtra it has made a big difference in terms of improving the accountability of health officials and finally in improving local health services for example improving availability of medicines in the PHC or a regular doctor visiting the PHC etc - for details see;   

All the comments here therefore need to be seen as part of collective thinking at least in Maharashtra to push for CBM in the social service sector of which domestic water is one, health and education being the others.

The CBM tool - its potential and scope

This tool essentially is a participatory process wherein different communities from the village upwards to the state level participate to monitor the status of domestic water services in their regions. The CBM tool basically would monitor all of the issues that have come as recommendations from the thematic papers mentioned in the proceedings. Although water is a state subject, it can be very well guided by the central government since it does spend substantial amounts of money in the states as well. It can therefore be useful in

        Improving accountability of goals mandated by the government

        Assuring outreach of public services (Functionality of schemes- piped water systems)

        assuring access to safe and potable water of required norms within required distances

        Addressing inequities in access to water based on class, caste, tribe, ethnicity and gender

        Questions of pricing and affordability

        Sanitation (construction of toilets and its usage or functionality)

        Addressing issues of inadequacies in governance (are all the committees in place and are they functioning))

        Ensuring participation of stakeholders at various levels

How can this be done?

CBM kind of a tool can be used at the village level compiled at the taluka and district level and finally fed into a state level compilation

        Developing tools for participatory assessment (simple score cards that indicate the quality of the service)

        Empowering communities to participate in these assessments

        Displaying information on village boards for public scrutiny

        Compiling information at the taluka and district level

        Holding public meetings at district levels in the presence of district officials, movements and NGOs

Who needs to finance this?

It goes without saying that this needs to be supported by the central government at least on a pilot basis in a few districts of a few states to begin with. There has to be a budgetary allocation for this and I think a planning commission member within his/her authority could easily argue and push for a pilot of this kind.

Ratnakar GedamAdviser (Retired), Planning Commission, New Delhi

The missing points in the 12th Plan Approach to Water are :

Water Resources has been reckoned from the point of view of demand-supply of water for purposes like irrigation, flood control, hydro-power generation, drinking water supply, industrial and various miscellaneous uses. The targets, achievement, resource allocation to ensure wide coverage of villages under Rajiv Gandhi Rural Drinking Water Mission has been traditionally objectives of various Five Year Plans. We need to go beyond the tradition planning confining to large number of projects comprising dams, barrages, hydropower structures, canal network etc.,

Advocacy for different elements of Integrated Water Resources Management Policy (IWRM) is missing. Reference need to be to preparatory meeting of Dublin conference on Water and the Environment (ICWE, 1992) in the context of Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro of 1992 known as Doblin’s Four principles:

        Water is a finite, vulnerable and essential resource which should be managed in an integrated manner.

        Water resources development and management should be based on a participatory approach, involving all relevant stakeholders.

        Women play a central role in the provision, management and safeguarding of water.

        Water has an economic value and should be recognised as an economic good, taking into account affordability and equity criteria.

Two contradictory school of thoughts relevant to “water as economic good” are as follows: The first school, called as the market proponents, maintains that water should be priced through the market. Its economic value would arise spontaneously from the actions of willing buyers and willing sellers. This would ensure that the water is allocated to uses that are valued highest. The second school interprets 'water as an economic good' to mean the process of integrated decision making on the allocation of scarce resources, which does not necessarily involve financial transactions (e.g. McNeill, 1998; Perry et al., 1997). Second school of thought advocated by Colin Green (2000) who posits that economics is about “the application of reason to choice”. In other words: making choices about the allocation and use of water resources on the basis of an integrated analysis of all the advantages and disadvantages (costs and benefits in a broad sense) of alternative options. Piped safe drinking water requires water treatment, operations & maintenance (O&M) expenses for water supply & distribution there should be priced for water therefore water consumers must be charged, i.e. policy decision as to compulsory installation of water meter for consumption measurement and collection of dues from all urban / rural population. Also as sanitation requires sewerage treatment plant installation, its O&M, use of chemicals etc. therefore each household must be charged as sanitation charges based on the quantity of discharged per household, industries, commercial users etc.    

The concept of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) stems from the first Dublin principle. It implies four aspects (Savenije & Van der Zaag, 2000, pp.15-18):

        considering all physical aspects of the water resources at different temporal and spatial scales (the integrity of the hydrological cycle and the related quality aspects);

        applying an inter-sectoral approach, recognising all the interests of different water users (including environmental, social and cultural requirements);

        giving due attention to the sustainability of water use and the rights of future generations;

        involving all stakeholders, at all levels in the management process, giving due regard to women

The second important missing point is utilization of experience of Private Water Operators in the country. That is, discussion with different water operating private companies engaged in urban drinking water supply and distribution under PPP with municipalities for exclusively for Management Contract (MC) for Operations and Management (O&M). In the O&M contracts in order to induce private companies’ revenues are over-estimated and under-estimated expenditure on the part of contractor / concessionaire, but in reality those far from reality. Thus under PPP private companies are treated as source of revenue and obligations for specific performance by the private operator the contracts clauses are written which are unfavourable to O&M company thus making its financial viability unsustainable. In other words, urban municipal corporation admits that they are inefficient in water supply and distribution therefore rely on private sector for managing O&M of drinking water supply but by creating contractual clauses leading eventual failure of any SPV they defeat the whole purpose for which O&M contracts are awarded under PPP. Thus model concession agreement needs to be reviewed.

Third missing point is that importance of “virtual water”. That is, volume of water required to produce a unit quantity of each commodity, the virtual water content (m3 ton−1) of primary crops. International virtual water flows have been calculated by multiplying commodity trade flows by their associated virtual water content:

VWF [ne ,ni ,c]= CT [ne ,ni ,c]× VWC[ne ,c]

In this VWF denotes the virtual water flow (m3yr−1) from exporting country ne to importing country ni as a result of trade in commodity cCT the commodity trade (ton yr−1) from the exporting to the importing country; and VWC the virtual water content (m3 ton−1) of the commodity, which is defined as the volume of water required to produce the commodity in the exporting country. That is, commodity trade has flow of virtual water flow, thus redefining agriculture trade.

Forth, India’s water footprint direction needs to be assessed and policy decisions to reduce water foot print commensurate with ecological foot print. The water footprint (WF) is a consumption-based indicator of water use.

The four major factors determining the water footprint of a country are: volume of consumption (related to the gross national income); consumption pattern (e.g. high versus low meat consumption); climate (growth conditions); and agricultural practice (water use efficiency). The WF of an individual or community is defined as the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the individual or community. This concept is closely linked to the concept of water footprint is the virtual water. The virtual water content of a product (a commodity, good or service) refers to the volume of water used in its production. International trade in agricultural commodities mainly depends on factors such as availability of land, labour, technology, the costs of engaging in trade, national food policies and international trade agreements, but above all the water use.

Fifth, cost of adjusting with climate change by 2030. UNFCCC commissioned six studies which provided estimates of the cost of adaptation for climate change by the year 2030, usually assuming a various alternative climate scenario for Agriculture, forestry and fisheries, Water supply, Human health, Coastal zones, Infrastructure, and Ecosystems. Cost of managing (a) Waste water management; (b) water transportation; (c) water distribution network construction; and (d) integrated water and sanitation management.

PM’s 8 mission and its implication on water demand as well as fulfilling goals / targets under National Water Mission, National Mission for a Green India, Sustainable Habitat etc.

Mohan Paul Prabhu, Svaraj, Bangalore

It is indeed heartening to see the wide consultations on rural Watsan that will input to the approach paper to the 12th Five Year Plan. I have gone through the consultation proceedings / thematic papers which looks quite comprehensive in its coverage of key areas of shortcomings and possible solutions, and would like to commend the Water Community , Arghyam, Water Aid and others for their efforts. I sincerely hope the discussion-consultation-approach paper will lead to tangible measures for improved and sustainable outcomes in rural Watsan.

Given below are my perspectives and suggestions based on my limited experience (while working with a national NGO) in rural drinking water programs in the southern states and that of Orissa & Gujarat in the late 80s and 90s.

The reliance on groundwater for rural drinking water will continue to remain high for some time to come. If this finite resource is to be available equitably, especially for the resource poor and marginalized communities then we need to look at several issues on priority.

The ‘International decade of drinking water’ and our own ‘Mission on drinking water’ gave the much needed impetus to renewed efforts (both by the state and the NGOs) to provide safe drinking water to rural communities. Unfortunately, the high focus on ground water and absence of a long term plan, resulted in several borewells being drilled and more being added at the slightest indication of drop in water. In many cases borewells were abandoned because of breakdown of Hand pumps (I did see quite a few in this category during my recent visit to Orissa).

        Borewells fitted with Handpumps, will continue to remain the mainstay of most small villages (as compared to piped water supply).

        It is imperative that a ‘Water Resource Mapping’ should precede and influence the choice and decision of the source vis-à-vis the potential, quantum of utilization, and future increase in usage either through the same source or additional sources.

        Decision or permission to harness or increase the usage of groundwater should be dictated by the recommendations and advice of the ‘mapping exercise’.

        Draft groundwater legislations should be dusted off, updated and implemented – while ensuring that it does not breed/encourage corruption during the process of regulation.

        Catchment identification, protection and recharge should be a integral part of the water supply development plan

        & M has to be the responsibility of the GPs, who should co-opt the user communities for the purpose with clear cost sharing. The ‘Handpump  Mistry’ model that has worked in many villages should be encouraged, replicated and institutionalized

        The assumption of the 70s and 80s that deep ground water was safe for drinking was quickly reassessed and followed up with mandatory water quality testing, as the 90s ended (meant to ensure that the tapped groundwater was free from contaminants (manmade from surface or naturally through minerals/chemicals).

Unfortunately government agencies tasked with water supply in several states are still grappling with basic issues of: failure in replenishing the initial stock of reagents/chemicals for water testing; lack of priority response for issues of excess fluoride, arsenic (treatments or safe and sustainable alternatives). (E.g., groundwater in 4500 villages in Karnataka is not fit for drinking due to high iron, fluoride or brackishness).

Many ULBs in towns/cities in Karnataka (a state which however has the distinction of leading/pioneering decentralized governance through the PRIs) do not follow quality testing and monitoring before/during supply leave alone informing the users of limits of critical quality parameters. It is high time departments/ULBs/PRIs responsible for supply of potable water are made accountable for shortcomings in adhering to minimum quality standards.

Independent regulatory/monitoring bodies should be created and vested with authority (& teeth) to ‘crack the whip’ and punish when necessary concerned agencies/divisions/teams responsible for delivery gaps, with fines and written strictures,. Otherwise the saga of ‘water mixed with sewage’ , ‘worms in water’ or undrinkable water – high TDS, etc., will continue with users at the mercy of the suppliers.

This will of course mean that water users pay reasonably for the water supply ( to be seen more as a means to value a scarce natural resource and promote responsible use), who should not be billed when supply does not meet minimum stipulated quality and quantity norms. It is important to ensure that the poor’s right to drinking water is not sacrificed – by ensuring free or nominal rate for supply through common public points and subsidized costs for piped supply to households; supplying prescribed 55 lpcd of water is important but ensuring that it is potable is more critical.

Sanitation: TSC especially the role of IEC along with Incentives/Awards is beginning to show slow but nevertheless perceptible changes in the sanitation practices of rural communities (although cases of unused toilets or used as storage rooms continue to be seen), much more needs to be done to ensure it covers most/all households.

WATSAN has to be the responsibility of the gram panchayat, with situation-specific participative plans emerging to broadly subscribe to the funding framework of a program or scheme of the district or state. Integrated planning and convergence of Rural Water Supply, TSC, Watershed development/ Tank rehabilitation, MGNREGA, NRHM is crucial, for effectiveness and sustainability of outcomes- Communities, CSOs, NGOs/VOs has to continue lobbying with the GOs for this to become a reality soon. For this to happen financial planning/budgeting exercise has to probably change for the state/district to approve broad sector allocations with scope, and flexibility for bottoms up integrated planning & implementation coming from the GP. GPs with the Vision, Outlook and proven actions in WATSAN should be incentivized. For effective and efficient service delivery, GPs ought to have provision and budgetary support for staff with competencies in Water and Sanitation. The role of the informal/formal community groups –WUGs, VWSC, SHGs, CBOs, should be institutionalized if community participation and ownership in planning and O & M has to be realized

Ramakrishna Nallathiga, Centre for Good Governance, Hyderabad

I got hold of official background paper of approach to 12th Five Year Plan in general and that of rural water supply & sanitation. It has adequately described the position of water supply and sanitation in general, especially the coverage and achievements in detail, especially of IMIS. It has also identified the reasons for shortcomings from its own evaluation studies. 

I also went through the draft summary of the inputs from civil society consultations which appear to take a different approach to the subject. Whereas background paper prepared by department has an operational/missionary focus relating to the sector (with less focus on sanitation and hygiene), the consultations have used key areas as points of progress.

Apart from the differences in the approaches, I noticed that somewhere the whole approach is based on the assumption that we have adequate resources - technical, financial and organization - to take care of the issues but what is required is (a) action planning (b) grass-root institutions (c) funding/grant support.

The whole issue of 'sustainability' is not only ecological and environmental sustainability which constrains the availability of water resource to induce stress, but also financial sustainability of the mission/project and operational sustainability of management systems.

Financial sustainability is very important and overlooking it has made several systems unviable and this had led to deficient water supply service in some places. Even if we agree that the capital costs have to come from the government or a donor agency, the operation and maintenance as well as repair/rehabilitation costs are large and need to be recovered to run the system. User charges are not collected to the extent required to meet the O&M and other costs, which requires a major reform.

Operational sustainability requires not only requires information systems (which is largely neglected aspect) and audits (by the department, third party as well as community/social audit), but also handling of maintenance and repair function without any major problem. This requires the local people to be adequately trained and inducted as well as supervised for a while before they can take care of the system, and also setting up a helpline at block/district level to intervene in problems that local people cannot resolve in the future.

Another important aspect of sustainability is that the whole issue can be solved by Government, its agencies  and local governments. If that were the case, then the discussion would not have much to say. Alternative models of delivery of water and sanitation need to be invented, tried, tested and replicated. For example, the private (voluntary) sector can play a big role if it is allowed to participate on a no-profit or low-profit basis. There are businesses that can be asked/forced to put money without expecting big returns. A case in point is the attempt by the Byrraju Foundation to cover drinking water supply in rural hamlets (, Word, 213 Kb).

The Plan document has to make an explicit provision for using the private sector in using their own models of technology, finances and organization at least in some of the areas like drinking water (while providing for other domestic water supply by local governments/panchayats). The water and sanitation revolving funds and credit markets need to be encouraged so that the demand for the service emerges as people demand for the service they want when they pay for it. The success in African hamlets is a case to think about experimentation. 

I hope the above will find reflection in the feedback/ inputs to approach paper.

Bharti Patel, Svaraj, Bangalore*

My comments are based on evidence from Svaraj’s  in-depth study on the state of water, sanitation and waste management in Doddabalapur – a growing peri-urban town 45 Km from Bangalore (the report was shared earlier with the community) and from our field interventions in rural Karnataka and Tamil Nadu  

In this response to the consultation document, I will focus on the issue of inequity, inequality and injustice on access to water and sanitation.

The lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation is directly related to poverty, inequality and injustice, coupled with the inability of governments to finance and govern satisfactorily water and sanitation systems – from socio-cultural and ecological perspectives.  Despite attempts and financial investments, there continues to be wide disparities in provisions of basic facilities and health concerns between the slum and non slum community, and between castes with Dalit , SC and ST community still being denied access to potable water, sanitation and their role in governance is periphery.

In Svaraj’s Watsan study: 

        Slum dwellers were twice as likely not to have access to domestic connections as non-slum dwellers.

        Less than half (42%) slum households have access to private toilets, and 1 in 3 use open space or community toilets, with a real and growing reluctance to use community toilets due to poor maintenance and lack of availability of water .

        Caste inequality was all too visible.  Nearly half (46 %) of the SC/ST community do not have toilets and the key reasons given included – lack of place/space and money

        Lack of interest in having toilets was the case with less than 2 %.

The problem is acute and working out how to ensure fair and just rights of all citizens to water and sanitation, in the next five years, with more than half of the rural population lacking access to toilets and sanitation services and over 170 million without access to safe water, will be ever more challenging with the growing threat of water scarcity, rapid and unchecked industrialisation, changes in land use patterns, affecting the rural eco-system including natural resources.  With he poor and marginalized continuing to bear the brunt.

Finding a way to address it that does not exacerbate current inequality is arguably a collective challenge that we all face in India . And actions and strategies need to find ways of redressing the historical injustices in access to land, water, sanitation, common as a priority.…. Unless these positive steps are considered the challenges to achieve the former will remain.

        The document, gives an account of the situation and the need for multiple actions at multiple levels and the challenges of devising a system which ensures affordable, equitable and sustainable solution to water and sanitation for all in India .

        The document rightly identifies the need to protect sources of water, from catchments to storage to use and finally from polluting elements; the need for adequate regulations and of political and economic governance of the water and sanitation.

        The stress on mapping availability and accessibility to water and sanitation and community participation in the design of projects to meet local needs is indeed welcomed.


Gaps in the report

The report however, lacks an answer to the enduring difficulty posed by the power politics and lobbies for the rapid change in land use patterns, industrialization and the continued inequality and inequity in availability, accessibility, and affordability of water and sanitation. Water and free market in terms of exploitation of natural resources can be uneasy bedfellows in the absence of social safety nets, responsible governance and responsible citizens, strong institutions built with the clear and strong role and capacity of local community and in-particular the vulnerable communities. 

      The document rightly points out that “Exclusion of particular groups (caste, gender, geography) happens, and ways must be found around this, for eg. through mapping of exclusion (p 6)

Whilst this is key to first understanding the issues with evidence, and the need to address the continuing inequality and injustice experienced by poor and marginalised communities,  there is an urgent need to understand the where, how and why “exclusion… happens” in modern India? The mapping exercise needs to be bold and very forward thinking in the collection of data, analysis and recommendation – should include

1.      Community mapping methodology with adequate orientation and sensitisation of the people involved in mapping

2.      Cross cutting issues such as gender, caste, age, income, culture, land, access to common, housing patterns/materials, space, position of residence, polluting factors etc..

The mapping if well designed should allow citizens, communities, as well as public authorities to understand the historical context of caste and gender discrimination in India, the myths/taboos that surround caste/gender roles/systems including religious beliefs, custom and practices in relations to water and sanitation, the political powers, government policies and its impact on water resource; help reach a common understanding and to create trust between different actors – public, private, officials, supports, NGO’s and CBI’s; Enable citizens to hold the service providers accountable for equitable, fair and just delivering of water supply and sanitation services to all citizens.

      The document makes the point that “Water tankers in many rural areas and water trains in some parts of the country, highlight the precarious state of water availability and issues of inequity and injustice in securing claim on water, specially by women, and the socio politically and economically marginalised communities..”

Most of us are aware of the poor quality of water and access to relatively good quality of water is a privilege for the few. Svaraj’s study showed, the major source of water now is tanker water, (with ground water having depleted to over 1000 ft in some areas). The quality of tanker water is relatively better than municipal supply which has nearly 4 times more TDS that tanker water. Given that the poor are twice more likely to be dependent on municipal water supply then the non – poor, their access to safe water is significantly reduced.  And whilst rain water harvested and stored through roof top rain water harvesting systems is safe, this will not address the problems of accessibility to safe DW for the poor and marginalised – many of whom will not have roof tops to catch enough water and space for sumps in the grounds.

Solutions to be considered should include:

        Decent housing - There is an urgent need to consider land and decent houses for the poor to enable them to harvest rain water for their daily needs, or a community space for collective harvesting and accessibility;

        Water testing with mapping point and non–point sources of pollution and polluting factors and ensuring effective pollution controls at all levels, including decentralised treatment of sewage to ensure the municipal water supply is potable;

        Integrated Pollution Prevention Control regulations even those with toilets in peri-urban and rural areas, untreated sewage is let into the open drains leading into local surface water bodies.

Water and Sanitation

The largest daily user of water in the home is the toilet. The western toilets with flush found in the homes of the wealthier and modern houses, uses more than 3 gallons (12 litres per flush). One person can consume as much as 60 litres per day.  A family of 4 then will need 240 litres per day just for flushing toilets.  Whilst lack of water and space is given as a reason for inadequate supply and unsanitary conditions of toilets for the poor and marginalised.

This inequity and disparity needs to be addressed through policies and regulations on use of grey water, technologies such as reducing the amount of water that is flushed away, educating, encouraging and promoting Indian toilets which uses much less water and is better for health is needed in particular  amongst the financially wealthier communities.

Inequity, inequality and injustice –There is a need to address both inequality and inequity:

Inequality is the difference in rates of access to water and sanitation amongst segments of the population

Inequity - unfair and unjust differences (practices leading to differences) in this fundamental basic right to water and sanitation. 

Concerns about inequitable service provision in water and sanitation is clear from the data on those without access to safe water and sanitation and those who have systems and practices which over exploit water.

To address this, it will be about making a value judgment in the case of water and sanitation inequity.  There is a need to ground our thinking in the human right to safe and adequate water and sanitation and to treat each and every inequality/disparity as unfair and unjust until proven otherwise.  Understanding the reasons behind inequalities, is important to help target access to water and sanitation and to create equity and move toward a society where equality in the aggregate is a true indicator of justice

Community participation and Sensitisation  - in the design of accessing and the affordability of water and sanitation systems is important and the inclusion of 50 % women (p 12) is crucial – it is important to note that for any participation to be active and results based, should be supported by clear orientation, sensitisation and capacity building programmes on the whole gamut of the right to water and sanitation – to include socio-political, health, environment, caste, gender and class, budgets and financial allocations, community monitoring and evaluation of the operations and management. In addition the participatory exercises should be open to learning from traditional community wisdom on source protection, the cultural aspects particular rituals and taboos.

Consistent gender, caste and class data sensitive research by independent teams and effective evaluation of disparities- reduction programs can help understand progress being made and help to design a more equitable Watsan programme, including targeted approaches to close the inequality and inequity gap.

Collaboration with capable and committed voluntary organisation can help achieve this.


Decentralisation under 73rd Amendment to India ’s Constitution has not translated into inclusive local democratic practices.  Weakness in local capacity, transparency and political will to meet basic public needs, coupled with women and citizens from the SC/ST class, overtly and covertly denied basic privileges - including their role in local decision making on their development planning, accessing rights and challenging wrongs, has alienated many from active participation in local governance, ultimately affecting their right to basic services.

Orientation, sensitisation and capacity building of citizens, community organisations, Panchayat Raj Institute, government representatives on values of good governance and participatory pro-poor development planning and for basic public services is vital: Strategy and investments to include:

        Promote, strengthen, enable women and marginalised to actively participate in decision making on pro-poor policy, programme development and leadership in finding solutions to better public services

        Increase awareness on the value and role of citizens in good governance and equitable practices in water and sanitation 

        Facilitate peoples’ participation/focus groups/public hearing on policies, programmes and decision making on water and sanitation

        Promote Public, Private, community Participation (PPCP) in co-management of this basic public services

Need for more focus and investment in the protection of source of water to include ridge hills, adjacent bio-topes conservation and management.

*Offline Contribution

Many thanks to all who contributed to this query!

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