Ensuring Sustainable Drinking Water Security in Rural Areas in India

New Delhi, Jan 27, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio / PIB-India) The major thrust of the rural water supply programmes  is to  ensure provision of adequate drinking water supply to the rural communities. Hitherto the role of the government was that of a service provider, with minimum involvement of the community in the planning process and the implementation activities. With the increase in demand due to public aspirations and decrease of availability of safe water it was considered essential to involve the community in the programme.

To achieve this, there was a paradigm shift and the Framework for implementation of National Rural Drinking Water Programme was revised in 2009. The Department appropriately addressed the soft issues related to facilitating the   active participation of PRIs in the process of planning, implementation and operation of schemes to achieve the goal of long term sustainability. It also ensured that the community gets continuous support and handholding so that they are empowered to take up the role of planning and implementing the systems also in addition to operating and maintaining them.

Resources for Promoting Sustainability

Under the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) 20% of the allocation to each state is earmarked for Sustainability component, which is provided as 100% grant-in-aid to States, for taking up various works related to sustainability of drinking water sources and schemes.  These include constructing structures to use rainwater for storage and re-charging of drinking water sources.

Delivery Mechanism

The  Department of Drinking Water Supply  provides policy guidance and financial and technical support to the states with online monitoring  through IMIS, State and district level  Missions/Committees set up to strengthen the PRIs so that the ultimate objective of empowerment of PRIs in the drinking water and sanitation sector can be realized.  For this not only has an  appropriate institutional set up  been defined, but  the Department has even brought out  guidelines  for  effective functioning of these State and district level mission and also laid down the indicators for functioning of village level water and sanitation committee (VWSC).

Institutional setup SWSM

As a step towards achieving coordination and convergence among State Departments dealing with Rural Drinking Water Supply, Rural Sanitation, School Education, Health, Women and Child Development, Water Resources, Agriculture, etc. a State Water and Sanitation Mission (SWSM) has been set up at the State/ UT level. It is a registered society under the aegis of the Department/ Board/Nigam/ Authority/ Agency, implementing the rural water supply programme in the State. It  provides operational flexibility to the States/ UTs, so that the desired thrust is there for an integrated implementation of and institutionalising community participation under the NRDWP and Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC). The SWSM is headed by the Chief Secretary/Additional Chief Secretary/ Development Commissioner with Secretaries of other concerned Departments as members. Experts in the field of Hydrology, IEC, HRD, MIS, Media, NGOs, etc. co-opt as members.

All States have set up a Water and Sanitation Support Organisation (WSSO) under State Water and Sanitation Mission (SWSM), to provide software support to districts and blocks in the areas of  Water Quality Monitoring  & Surveillance  (i.e. Drinking Water Testing  Labs) Computerisation projects, Monitoring &Evaluation and IEC & HRD  activities, Research &Development activities, etc. These are activities for which 100% funds are provided (as Support Funds) by the Government.

District Water and Sanitation Missions (DWSM) constituted at the district level, functions under the supervision, control and guidance of Zilla Panchayats/Parishads. States which do not have a proper PRI set up in place, as in case of 6th Schedule Areas and desire to supervise the working of the DWSM through alternative mechanism, put in place a suitable body. The DWSM supervises the  preparation of the District Water Security Plan and its implementation. All the village water security plans are consolidated and analysed at the district level by the DWSM. At the district level, convergence of all the other related programmes and funding is ensured by the DWSM with some of the major development programmes like the MNREGS, Integrated Watershed Management Programme projects of Dept. of Land Resources, Central and State Finance Commission funds , NRHM, various Watershed and Irrigation schemes of the Ministry of Agriculture, various schemes of the Ministry of Water Resources etc.

The Department has brought out  handbooks and manuals to facilitate the involvement of stakeholders including PRIs, training manuals on water security planning and community led Total Sanitation, and a handbook for Gram Panchayats to manage Village Water Supply Schemes, to help communities to plan, implement, operate, maintain and manage drinking water schemes in their areas.

Block Resource Centres

In 2010 the Department decided to put in place a support structure at the Block level to enable sustainability of drinking water supply systems, by supporting the establishment of Block Resource Centers (BRCs). These centers at the Block level are manned by  coordinators with experience in the  field of development communication, institution building, training  and rural development to give support and continuous handholding to the Gram Panchayats and Village communities to achieve the goal of a sustainable water system maintained by PRIs.  As a result of this major initiative a total of nearly 18,000 staff will be available at block levels  to support the Gram Panchayats and Village Water and Sanitation Communities.

Capacity Building

The importance of continuous professional development in the water supply and sanitation sector needs no emphasis. To assess the knowledge gap Training Needs Assessment workshops have been held in many states and are being planned for rest of the country. Each state identifies the training needs of the professionals, elected representatives and grassroots level workers and chalks out the training calendar for the year so that the training needs are appropriately addressed. The Department after due examination has identified about 25 institutions/ organizations having domain knowledge and expertise in the drinking water and sanitation sector as National Key Resource Centers (KRCs). The National KRCs provide training, orientation and capacity development of engineers, PRI representatives and master trainers at State and District levels. These centers also extend technical guidance to State Communication and Capacity Development Units (CCDU)  for IEC and HRD activities.

For taking up all these software activities that are generally neglected the Government has made a provision of  5% Support Funds to the States, from which the States can carry out training and IEC activities, expenditure on DWSMs, BRCs,  water quality monitoring and surveillance etc.

The efforts to empower the Gram Panchayats and improve the quality of service delivery of drinking water supply in rural areas through software activities need further vigour.  It is expected that with the above steps the country will move  towards a more   decentralized approach  to attain lifeline drinking water security of quality and quantity under all circumstances and at all times.  (PIB Features)

(With Inputs from the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation)