Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission: A Success Story in India

Access to drinking water in third world

Access to drinking water in the 3rd world - Image via Wikipedia

To wrap up, one must say; the greatest strength of democracy is that under this system of governance, the people are the masters of the destiny and also of their own developmental works. The Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi had always underlined this theme. The Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission is truly one such scheme.

By Nirendra Dev
Special Representative, The Statesman,  New Delhi
PIB Features

New Delhi, July 26, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio / PIB India) The provision of drinking water supply is an imperative need of the society. Ensuring adequate and effective supply of drinking water in rural areas is one such important priority area and was thus incorporated as one of the six key components of Bharat Nirman programme under the UPA government in 2004. During the Bharat Nirman Phase – I period itself, over 55,000 un-covered and about 3.31 lakh slipped-back habitations were covered with provisions of drinking water facilities. In addition over 2 lakh quality-affected habitations were to be addressed for water quality problem.

The Planning Commission documents say, the national goal of achieving universal access of the mammoth rural population to adequate potable drinking water at a convenient location at all times is truly a daunting task. Thus it is not without good reason that a national water supply and sanitation programme was introduced in the social welfare sector way back in 1954.

Essentially, provision of safe drinking water in the rural areas has been the responsibility of the states. The Accelerated Rural Water Supply Programme was introduced in 1972-73 by the Government to assist the states and Union Territories to accelerate the pace of coverage of drinking water supply. The entire programme was given a mission approach and the ambitious project was named the National Drinking Water Mission (NDWM) in 1986. This National Drinking Water Mission was renamed as  Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission which principally works on the premise of community based demand driven approach instead of the traditional forced supply driven approach. Actually, a paradigm shift in the scheme was brought after a nationwide survey conducted in 1996-97 which revealed that even poorest of the poor were “willing to participate” in the implementation of the programmes, and also contribute towards operation and maintenance of the scheme for drinking water.

Experts also maintained that the principle of graded contribution from among the villagers and the poorer sections of the society would also inculcate a sense of ownership which in-turn will improve the overall functional efficiency of the system.

The project envisages provision of sustainable water supply and sanitation facilities to the inhabitants of the project area with components like installation of water supply schemes, utilizing the water efficiently, dependable sources and thus assuring sustainable water supply.

Several brainstorming sessions have worked over the years in order to improve the efficacy of the system. It was realised that the objective of supplying safe drinking water would not be achieved unless the sanitary aspects of water and the issue of sanitation are addressed together.

Thus, the Centrally Sponsored Rural Sanitation Programme was christened with the overall objective of improving the quality of life of the rural people. It was envisaged that the two programmes, the Accelerated Rural Water Supply Programme or the Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission and the Rural Sanitation Programme implemented simultaneously would help break the circle of disease, morbidity and poor health, resulting from water borne diseases.

Thus, the rural drinking water supply turned into a mission with greater involvement of various agencies. Certain institutional arrangements were worked out and agencies identified in certain areas like the state level water land sanitation mission (SWSM), which is responsible for policy guidelines and implementation of the Project. Then comes the district water and sanitation committee (DWSC), which is responsible for formulation and management of project implementation in the district and ensuring that the project development objections are achieved in the district. There has also been involvement of Village water and sanitation committees  to ensure sustainable water Supply in Rural Habitations and Schools.

In order to ensure adequate fund flow for uninterrupted works in these projects, it was also ensured that the states could enlist external assistance.  Accordingly, the World Bank has assisted the states in the Integrated Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project. These include the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, to name a few.

By the on-ground experience it was also realized that the objective of providing necessary scientific and technological inputs required to improve the performance, cost effectiveness and management practices of the on-going programmes would not be achieved without the Research and Development (R&D) input and support. A series of Research and Development initiatives have therefore been taken to provide the necessary scientific and technological inputs into the Mission programmes.

Looking back, there are success stories vis-à-vis the implementation of the Rajiv Gandhi Drinking Water Mission. According to Planning Commission sources, a few years back, Himachal Pradesh stands out as unique in the sense that almost all women – a whopping 96 per cent have asserted their increased participation in the community activities. As regards the program's impact on children, an overwhelming majority of women, 89 per cent have reported that on account of improved water supply, easier access and adequate availability, children have now more time set apart for study and play. Needless to add, earlier the younger lots used to devote a lot of time in helping elders collect water. Overall, the study said, an overwhelming majority,  96 per cent of the households have reported increased usage of water.

An evaluation study on the implementation of the programme also revealed that a substantial 93 per cent of the rural population at present has access to safe drinking water, about  66 per cent of the households having access to safe drinking water source are getting round the year supply of drinking water. And it is encouraging to note that an overwhelming majority of the households,  93 per cent have reported their satisfaction with the water quality.

The study also brought some important suggestions for better functioning of the programme. These are: the need to revitalize the work of the Village Water and Sanitation Committees.

Moreover, suggestions have also cropped up on improving the awareness level. Awareness programmes with regard to the Mission should be organized on regular basis in the remote villages for its success. For better results, there is also stress on greater community involvement, especially women.  Studies also claim that the improvement in this regard is found to be phenomenal in the case of Rajasthan where over 91 per cent of the rural households have access to safe drinking water, making a marked improvement than what it was in 2003-04. In terms of receiving 'sufficient quantity' of water, the north-eastern state of Assam also stands out as one of the best performing states.

The increased availability and consequently, increased water usage by the rural households have been found to be the biggest program benefits. Overall, there has been also noticeable decrease in the frequency of the supply system breakdowns and also ensuring Environmental Sanitation and reduction in water borne diseases.

To wrap up, one must say; the greatest strength of democracy is that under this system of governance, the people are the masters of the destiny and also of their own developmental works. The Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi had always underlined this theme. The Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission is truly one such scheme.

- PIB Features


 


 

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author in this feature are entirely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of PIB.

 
Enhanced by Zemanta