Depleting ground water table and deteriorating ground water quality are threatening the sustainability of both urban and rural water supply in many parts of India.
Water supply and sanitation in India –Part 2
Water supply and water resources
Depleting ground water table and deteriorating ground water quality are threatening the sustainability of both urban and rural water supply in many parts of India. The supply of cities that depend on surface water is threatened by pollution, increasing water scarcity and conflicts among users. For example, Bangalore depends to a large extent on water pumped since 1974 from the Kaveri river, whose waters are disputed between the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. As in other Indian cities, the response to water scarcity is to transfer more water over large distances at high costs. In the case of Bangalore, the 3,384 crore (US$751.2 million) Kaveri Stage IV project, Phase II, includes the supply of 500,000 cubic meter of water per day over a distance of 100 km, thus increasing the city's supply by two thirds.
Responsibility for water supply and sanitation
Water supply and sanitation is a State responsibility under the Indian Constitution. States may give the responsibility to the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI) in rural areas or municipalities in urban areas, called Urban Local Bodies (ULB). At present, states generally plan, design and execute water supply schemes (and often operate them) through their State Departments (of Public Health Engineering or Rural Development Engineering) or State Water Boards.
Highly centralized decision-making and approvals at the state level, which are characteristic of the Indian civil service, affect the management of water supply and sanitation services. For example, according to the World Bank in the state of Punjab the process of approving designs is centralized with even minor technical approvals reaching the office of chief engineers. A majority of decisions are made in a very centralized manner at the headquarters. In 1993 the Indian constitution and relevant state legislations were amended in order to decentralize certain responsibilities, including water supply and sanitation, to municipalities. Since the assignment of responsibilities to municipalities is a state responsibility, different states have followed different approaches. According to a Planning Commission report of 2003 there is a trend to decentralize capital investment to engineering departments at the district level and operation and maintenance to district and gram panchayat levels.
Policy and regulation
The responsibility for water supply and sanitation at the central and state level is shared by various Ministries. At the central level, The Ministry of Rural Development is responsible for rural water supply through its Department of Drinking Water Supply (DDWS) and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation is responsible for urban water supply. However, except for the National Capital Territory of Delhi and other Union Territories, the central Ministries only have an advisory capacity and a very limited role in funding. Sector policy thus is a prerogative of state governments.
Urban areas. Institutional arrangements for water supply and sanitation in Indian cities vary greatly. Typically, a state-level agency is in charge of planning and investment, while the local government (Urban Local Bodies) is in charge of operation and maintenance. Some of the largest cities have created municipal water and sanitation utilities that are legally and financially separated from the local government. However, these utilities remain weak in terms of financial capacity. In spite of decentralization, ULBs remain dependent on capital subsidies from state governments. Tariffs are also set by state governments, which often even subsidize operating costs. Furthermore, when no separate utility exists there is no separation of accounts for different activities within a municipality. Some states and cities have non-typical institutional arrangements. For example, in Rajasthan the sector is more centralized and the state government is also in charge of operation and maintenance, while in Mumbai the sector is more decentralized and local government is also in charge of planning and investment.
Private sector participation. The private sector plays a limited, albeit recently increasing role in operating and maintaining urban water systems on behalf of ULBs. For example, the Jamshedpur Utilities & Services Company (Jusco), a subsidiary of Tata Steel, has a lease contract for Jamshedpur(Jharkhand), a management contract in Haldia(West Bengal), another contract in Mysore(Karnataka) and since 2007 a contract for the reduction of non-revenue
water in parts of Bhopal (Madhya Pradhesh). The French water company Veolia won a management contract in three cities in Karnataka in 2005. In 2002 a consortium
including Thames Water won a pilot contract covering 40,000 households to reduce non-revenue water in parts of Bangalore, funded by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation. The contract was scaled up in 2004. The Cypriot company Hydro-Comp, together with two Indian companies, won a 10-year concession contract for the city of Latur City (Maharashtra) in 2007 and an operator-consultant contract in Madurai (Tamil Nadu). Furthermore, the private Indian infrastructure development company SPML is engaged in Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) projects, such as a bulk water supply project for Bhiwandi (Maharashtra).
Rural areas. There are about a 100,000 rural water supply systems in India. At least in some states responsibility for service provision is in the process of being partially transferred from State Water Boards and district governments to Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI) at the block or village level (there were about 604 districts and 256,000 villages in India in 2002, according to Subdivisions of India. Blocks are an intermediate level between districts and villages). Where this transfer has been initiated, it seems to be more advanced for single-village water schemes than for more complex multi-village water schemes. Despite their professed role Panchayati Raj Institutions currently play only a limited role in provision of rural water supply and sanitation. There has been limited success in implementing decentralization, partly due to low priority by some state governments. Rural sanitation is typically provided by households themselves in the form of latrines.
A number of innovative approaches to improve water supply and sanitation have been tested in India, in particular in the early 2000s. These include community-led total sanitation, demand-driven approaches in rural water supply, a public-private partnerships to improve the continuity of urban water supply in Karnataka, and the use of micro-credit to women in order to improve access to water.
Community-led total sanitation
In 1999 a demand-driven and people-centered sanitation program was initiated under the name Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) or Community-led total sanitation. It evolved from the limited achievements of the first structured programme for rural sanitation in India, the Central Rural Sanitation Programme, which had minimal community participation. Community-led total sanitation is not focused on building infrastructure, but on preventing open defecation through peer pressure and shame. In Maharashtra where the program started more than 2000 Gram Panchayats have achieved "open defecation free" status. Villages that achieve this status receive monetary rewards and high publicity under a program called Nirmal Gram Puraskar.
Demand-driven approaches in rural water supply
Most rural water supply schemes in India use a centralized, supply-driven approach, i.e. a government institution designs a project and has it built with little community consultation and no capacity building for the community, often requiring no water fees to be paid for its subsequent operation. Since 2002 the Government of India has rolled out at the national level a program to change the way in which water and sanitation services are supported in rural areas. The program, called Swajaldhara, decentralizes service delivery responsibility to rural local governments and user groups. Under the new approach communities are being consulted and trained, and users agree up-front to pay a tariff that is set at a level sufficiently high to cover operation and maintenance costs. It also includes measures to promote sanitation and to improve hygiene behavior. The national program follows a pilot program launched in 1999.
According to a 2008 World Bank study in 10 Indian states, Swajaldhara results in lower capital costs, lower administrative costs and better service quality compared to the supply-driven approach. In particular, the study found that the average full cost of supply-driven schemes is 38 (US$0.8) per cubic meter, while it is only 26 (US$0.6) per cubic meter for demand-driven schemes. These costs include capital, operation and maintenance costs, administrative costs and coping costs incurred by users of malfunctioning systems. Coping costs include traveling long distances to obtain water, standing in long queues, storing water and repairing failed systems. Among the surveyed systems that were built using supply-driven approach system breakdowns were common, the quantity and quality of water supply were less than foreseen in designs, and 30% of households did not get daily supply in summer. The poor functioning of one system sometimes leads to the construction of another system, so that about 30% of households surveyed were served by several systems. Currently only about 10% of rural water schemes built in India use a demand-driven approach. Since water users have to pay lower or no tariffs under the supply-driven approach, this discourages them to opt for a demand-driven approach, even if the likelihood of the systems operating on a sustainable basis is higher under a demand-driven approach.