Managing water locally a good model
The Swajaldhara and similar schemes focus on constructing water supply installations before ensuring that there is somebody to manage them and pay for their operation. The urgency to provide safe drinking water most often leads to bypassing existing local institutions of resource management. The result is well known: the expected level of service is not reached and the invested capital erodes as gradual deterioration of facilities takes place. It is high time to have a management structure that can achieve technically and financially sustainable water supplies, before investing in new facilities that will be poorly maintained. With proper management, the value of invested capital can be safeguarded and expenditure on new investments reduced.
It is generally accepted that domestic water supply in rural areas is managed most efficiently by the local community. Keeping this in mind, the role of all other stakeholders should be to support and facilitate them. India is fortunate to have a Panchayati Raj system, which provides a sound and democratic basis for development at the local level. But its potential to provide amenities in rural areas is largely untapped.
A model to emulate The good news is that a successful scheme model already exists! In the Water and Sanitation Project implemented by the Tamil Nadu government with assistance from the Danish International Development Assistance (danida), the institutional foundation for providing water supplies lies within the framework of the Panchayati Raj system. The emphasis is on the establishment of a village-based management system (vms) for water supply and sanitation in 300 village panchayats in two districts. The core institution for this purpose is the Village Water and Sanitation Committee (vwsc), a statutory standing committee of the panchayat. This body consists of all the elected members of the village panchayat (this is mandatory) plus representatives from user groups, non-governmental organisations, health workers and traditional leaders selected by the gram sabha. The vwsc thus represents the village community in the project. The distribution of water is regulated through bylaws adopted by gram sabhas of panchayats.
The Block Water and Sanitation Committee and the District Water and Sanitation Committee assist the vwsc through legal, technical and administrative support, training, auditing and monitoring. The private commercial sector and the civil society also pitch in whenever required. The Tamil Nadu Government Order (1998), regarding the connection of and payment for house service connection provides the necessary legal basis for revenue collection.
The project provides large inputs in building up expertise of villagers