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This article discusses the present Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) that tells us about Drinking Water and Sanitation Status in a particular country. It has been observed that the estimation methodology or monitoring strategy of JMP needs to be thoroughly reviewed, given that there are no exclusive surveys carried out for Water and Sanitation purpose in the countries across the world. This article discusses the methodology JMP adopts and the way forward by siting the example of water and sanitation monitoring in India.
The JMP (Joint Monitoring Programme) for Water Supply and Sanitation serves as the official mechanism of the United Nations for monitoring access to drinking-water and sanitation, and for reporting globally on the status of Drinking-Water and Sanitation coverage.
The coverage estimates are used to measure progress towards MDG Target 7c, “To halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking-water and basic sanitation”.
The JMP source says that “Currently the JMP database includes 729 nationally representative household surveys and 152 Censuses. Almost all of these come from developing regions and to a lesser extent from the Commonwealth of Independent States. Since a census in many developed countries is no longer used to collect information on water and sanitation, the JMP largely relies on administratively reported data for the developed countries. The JMP database currently includes 318 administratively reported data for developed countries.”
After doing a thorough analysis of the monitoring mechanism process of JMP that reports country progress on water and sanitation we find that there are areas of further improvement in JMP mechanism to make it more accurate and robust monitoring programme.
For this purpose we took example from India on JMP mechanism. In India, as in other parts of the world, JMP process reports the progress of safe drinking water provisions and basic sanitation facilities under MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) framework. Here in India, the JMP rely at two sources or rather one source of information’s i.e. NFHS / DHS (National Family Health Survey).
For rural areas officially the data is collected by the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) of Government of India for Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation, and for urban areas- Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD). The second source of information is the data provided under DHS (National Family Health Survey-NFHS), which comes in the purview of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) of Government of India. Here, JMP uses the second source of information. Therefore, this source could be termed as ‘administratively reported data’ source from Government as per JMP’s definition.
However, the former sources of information- MoRD / MoUD, which they carry through their respective monitoring divisions, have various collection, monitoring and validation glitches. So this data needed cautious consideration before adopting to report countrywide progress on the coverage of water supply and sanitation and usually not much in use. Also, this data is not used by JMP for country progress on water and sanitation.
The subsequent source of information is NFHS (also known as DHS), which has a robust mechanism of data collection, validation and reporting.
However, the focus of NFHS is Health and Family planning and so it is more skewed toward health related data collection.
So, when applying the data collected through NFHS, scientifically we need to be very sure to understand that how much importance has been given to the information elicited on drinking water and sanitation in this ‘Health Survey’. As the whole process of study/research methodology i.e. sampling design, population coverage, sample size, study tools, etc. look in to the issues of Health, Family Planning and HIV Aids primarily.
Here, we concluded that, one need to closely compare the general ‘core questions provided on drinking-water and sanitation’ for household surveys under JMP guidelines and Water and Sanitation related tools provided in NFHS, and also review scientifically the study methodology of NFHS. In this case these questions need more probing and the sampling should consider water and sanitation among primary focus.
From a thorough review we find that in NFHS / DHS, the sampling design provides estimates for demographic and health indicators and not on water supply and sanitation (Read note at the end of this article about the focus of NFHS). The determination of the overall sample size is also governed by the magnitude of the key indicators, the desired level of precision of the estimates, etc.. So, it is more about producing population and health indicators at both the national and state/province levels. This is the major limitations of NFHS or DHS data, which, at present is being used under JMP to show progress of a country on MDG target 7c.
We also find that the appropriate probing of questions is another issue in NFHS /DHS survey, as one can’t be sure, whether enough probing or questions are incorporated to elicit detailed information about drinking water and sanitation status.
Therefore, it is recommended that JMP should make use of surveys exclusively carried out to assess the water and sanitation coverage in developing countries, to have accurate evidences on the achievements in Water Supply and Sanitation coverage. This will not only help the country Governments for better planning but also helping our communities in better access to these services. The NFHS/DHS data could be taken as cursory assessment, but not as full fledge reliable data source on of a country’s situation in water and sanitation coverage.
What is NFHS/DHS: The NFHS survey, provides information on population, health and nutrition in India and each of its 29 states. The survey is based on a sample of households which is representative at the national and state levels. NFHS-3 provided trend data on key indicators and includes information on several new topics, such as HIV/AIDS-related behaviour and the health of slum populations, men and unmarried women, HIV prevalence. About-NFHS-DHS
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We did a Swajal Alumni Survey in May 2010! After a repeated round of follow-up we got following responses from 39 Members on ‘My Most Memorable Moment with Swajal’! The survey was done between Jan 26- Feb 27, 2010! During this period, we sent personal and common reminders to group members and out of total 67 we got 37 full responses. We didn’t even edited the version they sent us, so don’t go to grammar, but just read sentiments!
Each one of them have a different story and style of telling them. Please read them 1-39, you will be refreshed!
A recent study by the Water and Sanitation Program of the World Bank estimates that inadequate sanitation costs India the equivalent of 6.4% of its GDP.
As of February 2011, 31% of rural households in India do not have toilets. A 2008 Unicef study points out that a mere 21% of rural India uses improved sanitation facilities. But sanitation is no one’s priority. Last year, India spent Rs1,422 crore, or 0.02%, of its gross domestic product (GDP), on the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC), the government of India’s flagship programme. This limited expenditure costs India heavily. A recent study by the Water and Sanitation Program of the World Bank estimates that inadequate sanitation costs India the equivalent of 6.4% of its GDP due to costs associated with death and disease, accessing and treating water and loss of work among others.
Now the good news! Despite its disastrous record and misplaced priorities, there is much to be learnt from India’s sanitation policy. To begin with, it can be credited as one of the only social sector programmes to have recognized the limitations of an infrastructure-driven policy approach—toilet building in this instance—and attempted to shift focus by introducing a performance-driven, outcome-oriented programme. Crucial to this shift was the introduction of the Nirmal Gram Puraskar (NGP) in 2003, an incentive scheme that offers rewards of up to Rs50 lakh to panchayats that achieve open-defecation-free (ODF) status. The NGP is premised on the assumption that improving sanitation requires changing people’s behaviour towards toilet use through local government innovation, awareness creation and generating bottom-up demand for improved sanitation. The programme, as we reported in this series last year, has successfully accelerated sanitation coverage up from less than 20% in 2000 to over 69% in 2011. Interestingly, many state governments have adopted this approach and have begun to experiment with their own awards. In 2009 alone, Karnataka, Sikkim and Haryana launched versions of the NGP awards.
Also See Rural Sanitation: Basics Yet to be Fixed (PDF)
The implementation of NGP offers many practical insights both on “how to” and “how not to” reform public services delivery in India. First, NGP demonstrates the ease with which fiscal transfers can be tied to achieving outcomes. Given the success of NGP, there is no reason why other social sector programmes cannot innovate with similar fiscal transfer structures. In fact, rather than outcomes budgeting—the Centre’s answer to the vexed problem of poor outcomes—the focus ought to be on linking outlays to outcomes at the delivery point through fiscal incentives such as NGP. Second, it showcases the catalytic role that, given the right incentives, local governments can play in promoting outcomes. Panchayats have responded enthusiastically to NGP. According to estimates by the Water and Sanitation Program, by 2010, approximately 55,785 local government institutions had applied and sought verification of their ODF status. About 22,745, or 41%, of these have gone on to win awards. But all this rests on an objective, rigorous evaluation system. This is the third key insight from NGP. While NGP’s evaluation methods are far from perfect, in recent years it has tried to introduce innovations such as panchayat peer review. Partly as a consequence of improved evaluation, the number of NGP awardees actually fell from 12,227 in 2008 to 4,558 in 2009-10.
For all its successes, perhaps, the biggest lessons to be learnt from NGP can be found in what it has not done. For one, it hasn’t completely dismantled the toilet construction drive. In fact, over 90% of TSC funds—the primary vehicle through which NGP is implemented—are earmarked exclusively to toilet construction. Unsurprisingly, many states continue to build toilets rather than focusing on generating bottom-up demand. Not only has the continued emphasis on construction severely limited NGP’s potential—in fact, most of NGP awardees at the grampanchayat level come from three states—Sikkim, Kerala and Maharashtra—but, crucially, it has also meant that large sums of money continue to be spent on the wrong problem. India’s experience with building school toilets illustrates this phenomenon well. The 2010 Annual Status of Education Report (Aser) survey assessed the availability and usability of school toilets to find that while about 90% of India’s elementary schools had constructed toilets, about half were either locked or unusable. The problem in this case is not infrastructure (or lack of it), but a problem of maintenance and prioritization. Clearly, behaviour change in this case is more critical than toilet construction. Ironically, given the stated focus on behaviour change in the TSC, a mere 5% of its annual expenditure is earmarked for IEC (information, education and communication, scheme jargon for awareness raising and capacity building).
Second, NGP has not invested enough in building capacity and motivating officials at the front line and this has been its greatest failing. While there is no serious research, anecdotal evidence suggests that where the award has been prioritized, the goal post has simply shifted from building toilets to winning awards, often at the expense of strengthening local governments and generating genuine demand, and an increasing number of award-winning panchayats have failed to maintain their total sanitation status. NGP amply demonstrates the difficulties of implementing a bottom-up, performance-oriented programme in an input-focused bureaucratic culture. When faced with the complex task of mobilizing communities and encouraging their participation, front line officials invariably search for ways to reintroduce the familiar—in this instance, focusing on the procedural aspects of winning the award and the visible input—the award itself and the route to the award is invariably building toilets. Breaking this input culture requires long-term investment on the front line, one which creates an army of providers motivated by the vision of the programme rather than its tangible outputs.So in sum, India’s sanitation story is a mix of hits and misses. Its success lies in the fact that it has successfully developed a unique outcome-focused implementation architecture, which has resulted in significant improvements. But its game-changing potential is limited by weak implementation and misplaced priorities. What we need most is to prioritize outcomes; but inputs are all we seem to get!
Yamini Aiyar is a senior research fellow and director of the Accountability Initiative of the Centre for Policy Research.
(Data collected and analysed by Avani Kapur and Anirvan Chowdhury)
Respond to this column at firstname.lastname@example.org(Data collected and analysed by Avani Kapur and Anirvan Chowdhury)
In a sustainable mountain development summit of Indian Mountain Initiative (IMI) at Nainital, in one of the deliberation made by Mr. A K Tyagi, Chief Project Officer, Uttarakhand Renewable Energy Development Agency, Dehradun mentioned that there are major 6 green house gases those are responsible for global warming and climatic changes. They are ; Carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous oxide (N2O), Hydroflurocarbons (HFC), Perfluorocarbons (PFC) and Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).
The emission of such gases is affecting climate across the globe, leading to variation in solar output, change in agriculture production, leading to sea level rise and impact on biodiversity and disease pattern.
He informed that of the various areas in Kyoto Protocol (ratified by 200 countries), CDM is one of the 3 flexibility mechanism that was introduced in Article 12 to encourage investments in projects that provided sustainable development by limiting GHG emission. While quantifying it, one certified emission reduction-CER is equal to 1MT CO2 and CER are traded for money on climate exchange. The CER’s are bought by companies which do not comply to the Kyoto Protocol.
The CDM is applicable in following sectors:
He mentioned that any project that can demonstrate that it achieves GHG emission, is eligible under the CDM. It includes project like renewable energy, afforestation and reforestation, energy efficiency, and other similar projects.
Sample Calculation of Cost-Benefit of a Project in CDM
Swajal Alumni Dr. Manoj Pant, Mr. V. K. Mishra, Mr. Suresh Khanduri, Mr. Bharat Patwal, Mr. Dinesh Mahtolia, Mr. K N Vajpai attended this summit at Nainital.
There are instances when we come through important and practical thoughts and ideas in profession, while on other hand we come across generic statements as well.
I was going through a note from an important consultation approach paper titled ‘Inputs from the Civil Society Consultations on Rural Water and Sanitation for the Approach Paper to Planning Commission’s 12th Five Year Plan’, that lead me to read the document at
http://bit.ly/i21ppX . The approach paper is meant to given practical suggestions and recommendations to Planning Commission at Government of India for its 12th five year plan, on various planning related aspects in Rural Water Supply and Sanitation issues.
I wonder that though the document encompasses through various thematic topics, of which ‘Beyond WATSAN’ was quite interesting, but, remaining five were like the statement sums of all equations, that one could come across lifetime. Here, I feel that, when we are coming forward to give practical recommendations to a premier institution like Planning Commission of India, we must use our useful experiences and rational thoughts, for specific recommendations. It would be wise when such recommendation are based on certain examples and have the possibility of getting incorporated in said five year plan document. Time again, we should not be idealistic in giving suggestions those are neither practical nor feasible in any sense. I am wondering that, there is little coverage and mention about the water supply planning and sanitation related important aspects from 11 mountain states of India.
I am also wondering that on one hand Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS) is on its way of developing fresh policy and guidelines for water and sanitation and on other Planning Commission of India is in the process of getting such documents prepared. Here, I don’t see any such mention in the approach paper, vis-à-vis any such coordination between Planning Commission of India and the agency entrusted the role of ‘Ensuring safe and sustainable water supply Sanitation for all’ i.e. Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation. It also becomes futile exercise when, within the agencies in India, there is no common understanding and coordination for preparing or helping the government in preparation of such policy document.
I could visualize the situation that, when the government institutions like Planning Commission of India will get plethora of such
information and suggestion from all quarters, and ultimately our advisors, consultants and bureaucrats would not be able to pull out the practical recommendations for proposed policy document. Then, this will be an added dilemma to a proposed ‘reform’ and ‘set targets’!
K N Vajpai
NEW DELHI, December 20, 2010 - Inadequate sanitation causes India considerable economic losses, equivalent to 6.4 per cent of India’s GDP in 2006 at US$53.8billion [i], according to The Economic Impacts of Inadequate Sanitation in India, a new report from the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP), a global partnership administered by the World Bank.
The study analyzed the evidence on the adverse economic impacts of inadequate sanitation, which include costs associated with death and disease, accessing and treating water, and losses in education, productivity, time, and tourism. The findings are based on 2006 figures, although a similar magnitude of losses is likely in later years.
The report indicates that premature mortality and other health-related impacts of inadequate sanitation, were the most costly at US$38.5 billion (71.6 percent of total impacts), followed by productive time lost to access sanitation facilities or sites for defecation at US$10.7 billion (20 percent), and drinking water-related impacts at US$4.2 billion (7.8 percent).
For decades we have been aware of the significant health impacts of inadequate sanitation in India, said Christopher Juan Costain, WSP Regional Team Leader for South Asia. This report quantifies the economic losses to India, and shows that children and poor households bear the brunt of poor sanitation.
More than three-fourths of the premature mortality-related economic losses are due to deaths and diseases in children younger than five. Diarrhea among these children accounts for over 47 percent (US$18 billion) of the total health-related economic impacts.
At 75 percent more than the national average and 60 percent more than the urban average, the poorest 20 percent of households living in urban areas bear the highest per capita economic impacts of inadequate sanitation. Rural households in the poorest quintile bear per capita losses 8 percent more than the average loss for households in rural areas.
The study focused on the safe management of human excreta and associated hygiene behavior. The methodology adopted by the study included disaggregating the economic impacts of inadequate sanitation [ii] into health-related impacts including premature deaths, costs of treating diseases, and productive time lost due to illnesses; domestic water-related impacts including household treatment of water, and money and time costs to obtain safe water; welfare losses including additional time spent by people for accessing toilets or open defecation sites, and girls having to miss school, and women not going to work; and the loss of potential tourism owing to inadequate sanitation.
Data on incidence (e.g. diarrheal diseases, deaths, etc.) were compiled from national sources (National Family Health Survey, WHO Demographic and Health Surveys, and other Govt. of India sources). Based on scientific literature, attribution factors were used to estimate the populations impacted by inadequate sanitation. Economic valuation was carried out using costs/prices based on secondary studies.
The study underlines that substantial investments are needed in improving sanitation – as the Government of India’s national rural sanitation flagship Total Sanitation Campaign has been providing and as the National Urban Sanitation Policy 2008 has espoused.
The report further recommends a new monitoring framework – one that measures not just toilet coverage and use, or coverage of sewerage and number of wastewater treatments, or number of sanitized communities and cities, but also improvements in the overall health, water-related, environmental, and other welfare indicators that result from inadequat e sanitation.
"The ESI study in East Asia (2007) showed annual per capita losses in the range of US$9.3 in Vietnam, to US$16.8 in the Philippines, US$28.6 in Indonesia to a high of US$32.4 in Cambodia," added Costain. "In contrast, India lost US$48 on a per capita basis, showing the urgency with which India needs to improve sanitation. "
The report estimates that comprehensive interventions (use of toilets, hygiene promotion, improved access to safe water, and proper waste management) can save India US$32.6 billion, or US$29 per capita.
The report also shows that increasing public and household investments in sanitation can generate considerable economy activity – the sanitation ‘market’ is estimated at about US$152 billion for infrastructure creation and operations and maintenance services, over the period 2007-2020.
The full report, due out later this fiscal year, follows a WSP study released in 2007 on the economic impacts of sanitation in Southeast Asia, a part of the Global Economics of Sanitation Initiative. Click here for more on ESI India: http://www.wsp.org/wsp/featuresevents/features/inadequate-sanitation-costs-india-equivalent-64-cent-gdp
In Delhi: - Vandana Mehra +91-11-24690488/89, vmehraIn Washington: Christopher Walsh +1 202 473 4594, cwalshFor more information, visit www.wsp.org , www.worldbank.org/water , or www.worldbank.org/sustainabledevelopment .Be updated via Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/wspworldbank For our YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/watersanitation
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In context to the development and devolution processes in India, year 2010 has been observed as ‘Year of Gram Sabha’ (Village Committee), in realizing the mandate of self-governance, transparent and accountable functioning of our Gram Panchayats (PRI). Over a decade of constitutionally mandated Panchayati Raj (Village Governance) it had first time over one million women (in 2006) as elected representatives.
I will also take note from one of the very interesting studies carried out by PRIA New Delhi www.pria.org in early 2010, on various aspects of ‘water governance’ and ‘third generation of reform’ in selected states of India.
When we talk about the existing capacity of PRIs in developing and managing WatSan facilities, there is no denying fact that, in the world’s largest democracy, the Panchayati Raj offers tremendous potential to make a positive difference. But, how this potential will be realized, depends a great deal on how well the Panchayats are empowered by the means of funds, functions and functionaries [3 Fs]. The measurement frame also revolves around the building the capacities of the elected representative in the Panchayat and lesser influence of bureaucratic system.
Though, it is evident that, the effective decentralization process requires a clear delegation of roles and responsibilities (Functions) at each level of government, backed by sufficient resources (Funds) and human resources (Functionaries) to carry out the assigned duties. The Local governments (PRIs) are ideally entrusted to provide services like health, education, water supply, among others, with the idea that, they are closer to the people and in a better position to appreciate their concerns, so their active involvement will certainly yield results on ‘sustainability’ aspect.
One of the letter written by Government of India in 2009 to all states reads “..the Union Government has a critical role to play in the devolution of 3Fs upon the PRIs, because of its basic responsibilities to ensure governance in accordance with the constitutional provisions and also because of the increasingly large fiscal transfers it makes to the States in the functional domain of the PRIs, mainly through Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSSs) and Additional Central Assistance schemes (ACAs)….”
It further says “…doubts are often expressed about the capacity and accountability of PRIs. This is a vicious circle since, unless 3 Fs are devolved, the PRIs would not be able to prove their comparative advantage. Empowering Panchayats, with clear roles and authority assigned to different levels through activity mapping, is a strong incentive to build capacity and also to get other pre-requisites for effective performance into place. This is amply proved by the implementation of NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme) through the Panchayats, which after some initial difficulties has now stabilized…”
The ‘Article 40′ of the Constitution of India explains that “State shall take steps to organize village Panchayats and endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government”.
Therefore, the devolution of functions, functionaries and funds (3Fs) are the necessary requisite for the proper functioning of the institutions of local self governance, which has not happened in most of the states of India yet. In the absence of clear devolution of 3Fs, either different institutions of local self governance are playing common role in a particular sector or not playing any role, at all. So, the provision of water and sanitation are not different in this way.
In some of the states of India, who have devolved the functions at the lowest level, are facing the problem of human and financial resources. There are some key issues those can provide more opportunities for the devolution and better functioning of PRIs in water and sanitation facilities:
Asit Biswas brands as ‘baloney’ WHO claim that it is on course to halve proportion of people without access to safe water
The shadow of a woman collecting drinking water from a communal tap is cast on a wall in the squatter suburb of Kliptown in Johannesburg. Photograph: Saurabh Das/AP
Hundreds of millions of people that the UN declares have gained access to safe water and sanitation are still struggling with polluted supplies and raw sewage, a leading expert has told the Guardian.
In its latest report on the progress of the UN Millennium Development Goal to halve the proportion of people lacking access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, the World Health Organisation said that since 1990 1.3 billion people had gained access to improved drinking water and 500 million better sanitation. The world was on course to “meet or exceed” the water target, it said, but was likely to miss the sanitation goal by nearly 1 billion people.
However, Prof Asit Biswas, who has advised national governments, six UN agencies and Nato, said official figures showing that many cities and countries had met their targets were “baloney”, and predicted that by the UN deadline of 2015 more people in the world would suffer from these problems than when the goals were first adopted.
Biswas, president of the Third World Centre for Water Management, spoke to the Guardian ahead of a speech tomorrow in which he will tell water industry leaders that inadequate improvements to drinking water and sewage are hiding the true scale of the problem and storing up environmental problems for future generations.
“If somebody has a well in a town or village in the developing world and we put concrete around the well – nothing else – it becomes an ‘improved source of water’; the quality is the same but you have ‘improved’ the physical structure, which has no impact,” said Biswas. “They are not only underestimating the problem, they are giving the impression the problem is being solved. What I’m trying to say is that’s a bunch of baloney.”
The problem would not have been halved by 2015, he added. “I would say more people will not have access to drinking water in the sense they will have water they can drink straight from the source, and sanitation is even worse.”
Biswas will also tell the Global Water Intelligence conference in Paris that water problems are caused not by physical scarcity of supplies but by poor management, including corruption, interference by politicians and inexperience. Such comments will be controversial in an industry dominated by companies providing technological solutions to “water stress” or “scarcity” – a lack of reliable supplies for average daily needs – which experts estimate affect more than 1 billion people around the world.
“These are real-life problems, but are we talking about them in the water profession? No. We talk about water scarcity,” the professor said. “With the water we have, and the money we have, we can manage it better.”
Biswas, whose awards include the prestigious Stockholm water prize for “his outstanding and multi-faceted contributions to global water resource issues”, has travelled to cities and countries that have officially met the UN goals, such as India, Egypt and Mexico, visited the new facilities and carried out tests on the water supplied.
“I’m asking them which planet they are on,” he said. “I advise the government of India, I have been advising Egypt since 1974: you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody lower-middle class or up [in those countries] who drinks that water.”
Instead, most homes in these countries pay high prices for extra filters, expensive membranes so they can create mini sewage plants to treat their own water, and bottled water, said Biswas. He is calling for politicians to be removed from water management, well-paid experts to be appointed to run water authorities and more public outcry when supplies are too bad to drink.
His comments follow another report last week from the WHO and Unicef, which claimed aid for water and sanitation improvements was falling and that only 42% of money donated to the issue went to where it was needed most. Furthermore, a report from the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund on Friday said the global financial crisis would cut progress towards the provision of clean water, meaning that in 2015 more than 100 million people would be enduring dirty water.
Responding to Biswas’s criticism, a WHO spokesman told the Guardian the organisation shared his concerns about water quality and the spread of improvements in water and sanitation.
The latest WHO update on progress, published in March, also warned that even if the Millennium Development Goals were reached in full, billions of people would still live with very poor water and sanitation.
Barbara Frost, chief executive of the UK-based global charity WaterAid, said: “Here is a global catastrophe which kills more children than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined and which is holding back all development efforts including health and education.”
Don’t let disputes over data get in the way of sanitation and safe water for billions
Sanitation for all is an achievable goal. But we can’t risk distractions that might cause us to lose political will. Guest column by Jon Lane.
A recent article  in the Guardian newspaper (UK) reported criticism of the methods used to measure progress towards the UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets for water supply and sanitation. This concerned me because it fell into the trap of focusing on a narrow argument about data.
The World Health Organization recently reported that since 1990 1.3 billion people had gained improved drinking water and 500 million better sanitation. Professor Asit Biswas, President of the Third World Centre for Water Management, told the Guardian that official figures showing that many cities and countries had met their targets were ‘baloney’. However, I believe the bigger picture is that even if the MDG goals were reached in full, billions of people would still live with very poor water and sanitation.
Solving the problem is more important than arguing about numbers and definitions. The climate change debate has demonstrated how dangerously disputes about methodology can distract attention, public support and political will, from the big issue.
Moreover, Biswas was misleading when he said that if, in the developing world, “we put concrete around [a] well – nothing else – it becomes an ‘improved source of water’; the quality is the same but you have ‘improved’ the physical structure, which has no impact.” But there is an impact. My experience is that such a simple measure, if properly done and accompanied by clear sensible hygiene education and environmental improvements, protects the well against faecal contamination or other pollutants.
For water and sanitation, there are numerous low-cost but highly effective technologies and interventions. To dismiss them unilaterally is unwise. During my 20 years in water supply and sanitation, I have seen a sufficient number of successful projects, in many of the least developed countries, to convince me that safe sanitation and drinking water for all is not merely a dream.
It is also wrong to call for politicians to be removed from water management and replaced by technical experts. Rather, both are necessary. There are many proven technologies: what is most lacking is political commitment. A large part of our efforts should be dedicated to persuading decision-makers of the economic and social benefits to be gained from investing in drinking water and sanitation.
The reality is that more people are gaining access to clean drinking water. There is increasing recognition of the business opportunities associated with sanitation. People should be persuaded to demand sanitation and to have this demand met by local entrepreneurs. In this way, toilets could become like mobile phones: everyone will want one, and affordability will improve. Human faeces (properly composted) should also be recognized as an economic commodity and not a waste product. The Chinese have known this for centuries, and only now are other nations catching up.
A few years ago talking about toilets was still a taboo; today, more politicians recognize its importance and are leading the sanitation revolution. The data from UNICEF and the WHO should be used as a means to help us measure progress, not be dismissed for its shortcomings.
K N Vajpai, Prakriti a mountain environment group India, comment on Don’t let disputes over data get in the way of sanitation and safe water for billions
What Jon Lane has opined about bigger picture of achieving the MDGs is true in terms of our intended target of solving the problem at first hand rather arguing on numbers and definitions. I also agree somewhat that, such debates may distract the attention and public support and political will. One will agree with Jon that, the simple measures with hygiene education focus and environmental improvements help in better sanitation situation and achieving the targets. If we take the democratic governance system in India, the politicians and our village and urban level political leaders are the important change agent and catalyst in the success of improving the situation with the help of technical experts. However, I would agree with Professor Biswas’s statement that meeting the targets a ‘baloney’, though I don’t believe in numbers (only). I will take the examples from India, and his statement has gravity, and the figures are doubtful in real sense. He is correct in stating about ‘concrete around well as improved source of water’ or the situation of installing a ‘hand pump’ in Fluoride and Arsenic affected area without understanding the geology and geomorphology, to count the numbers.
We have been discussing about the methodology of data collection by Government in India on various water and sanitation parameters with the support of international agencies, and find that they are manipulated. The real facts never come out. Take example of the numbers of water quality affected habitations (sub unit of in a village) in India, the facts are completely misleading and agencies copy and paste them in their reports. Demonstration of a successful project is not a dream either, but, it requires the set of skill, willingness and competence among the people in agencies. How the system functions within a municipality and a villages in developing countries need a sense of depth understanding among project team, which unfortunately is missing in our bureaucrats and technical experts in developmental agencies. They can write good reports and speak high about developmental scenario, but in real sense they mislead others. It’s also true that, the workers in many international agencies adopt a high bureaucratic approach than our bureaucrats in Government system, therefore the achievement is less and facts are manipulated or not revealed.
What Jon mentions about business opportunity with sanitation itself is a separate task, and at first hand our target is around influencing and facilitating the process of adopting the technology among the needy, and second step could be linking it with other activities. The mentioned facts are from research and we should not be too much research oriented in the name of development. The research needs a better methodology, implementation strategy, and should reveal the facts, and our hardcore academic researchers need to understand this. Further, the research output should be used in better planning and the planner should get the real picture about the situation.
Surely, the correct data should be used as a means to help to measure the progress, but, a positive critique and a close watch on the process is also an important component.
By Gopal Krishna, 02 Apr 2010
India is the largest groundwater user in the world, but if current trends continue, within 20 years 60 percent of all aquifers in India will be in a critical condition.
Oblivious of government’s own National Groundwater Recharge Master Plan of 2005 that has estimated that recharge structures can add a total of 36 cu. km to the groundwater, on March 05, 2010 Pawan Kumar Bansal, the Union Minister for Water Resources, released “Report on Deep Wells and Prudence: Towards Pragmatic Action for Addressing Groundwater Overexploitation in India”.
However, the noteworthy omission is that current policies on water, agriculture, land use, urban development and industry that are responsible for over- exploitation of groundwater are not dealt with in the report. Pragmatic action would prove to be sterile if it fails to take cognisance of the fissures within the policy framework. Before jumping at the seemingly obvious solution that lies with the communities, the city based planners from multilateral agencies must explain how they manage the groundwater in their backyards and to what effect.
Groundwater as natural capital has played a lead role in our food security. It has been noted that yields in areas irrigated by groundwater are often substantially higher than yields in areas irrigated from surface sources. In many cases yields in groundwater irrigated areas are higher by one third to one half. In fact as much as 70-80% of India¡¯s agricultural output may be groundwater dependent, as per research studies.
In India, 80% of rural water supply for domestic uses is met from groundwater. General invisibility of this natural capital and the environmental and social services that depend on groundwater is inadequately understood. Policy makers have taken cognisance of environmental concerns with regard to pollution and water quality degradation but only to ignore it. Most important environmental services provided by groundwater include the dry season flow in rivers that depend heavily on groundwater in many areas; its instream flows are critical for the maintenance of fisheries and aquatic ecosystems. In many cases water availability in wetlands is dependent on high groundwater levels and surface vegetation that are critical for wildlife habitat and sources of food, fuel and timber.
In India, 80% of rural water supply for domestic uses is met from groundwater. General invisibility of this natural capital and the environmental and social services that depend on groundwater is inadequately understood.
It has been noted that around 1960, groundwater irrigation started developing at an explosive rate. The report says, “Groundwater use has increased to widely represent as much as 70 percent of the overall irrigation supply despite very limited coverage of rural electrification and dependence on diesel engine pumps, and despite the fact that during the dramatic 2007¨C08 increases in the price of hydrocarbon fuels, groundwater users were paying Rs 2,000¨C3,000 per acre for pumping groundwater, compared to only Rs 100 per acre for canal water use.”
The report which is an outcome of the World Bank Study and Technical Assistance Initiative on Groundwater Management in India merits serious attention and is a reminder of government’s own wisdom on which it has chosen not to act. It was conceived to identify management strategies for promoting sustainable groundwater use in India within a systematic, economically sound and politically feasible framework. The initiative is aimed at providing focussed technical support for enhancing the outcomes of ground water management interventions under the World Bank-financed projects in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.
It is well known that India is the largest groundwater user in the world, with an estimated usage of around 230 cubic kilometers per year, more than a quarter of the global total. Indeed with more than 60 percent of irrigated agriculture and 85 percent of drinking water supplies dependent on it, groundwater is a vital resource for rural areas in India.
If current trends continue, within 20 years 60 percent of all aquifers in India will be in a critical condition. The potential social and economic consequences of continued weak or nonexistent groundwater management will be severe, since aquifer depletion is concentrated in many of the most populated and economically productive areas.
In effect, the World Bank’s 120 page report reiterates what was stated by Professor S.R. Hashim led National Commission on Integrated Water Resources Development Plan, which noted that overall groundwater balances were becoming precarious. India has around 430 cubic kilometers of annual replenishable groundwater resources. With a net annual groundwater availability of 399 cubic kilometers, in 2004 the net withdrawals amounted to 58 percent of the net annually available resource. This masks a large number of severely stressed locations across the country, mostly in western, northwestern, and peninsular India. According to the 2004 nationwide assessment, 29 percent of the groundwater blocks are in the semi-critical, critical, or overexploited categories.
The potential social and economic consequences of continued weak or nonexistent groundwater management will be severe, since aquifer depletion is concentrated in many of the most populated and economically productive areas.
Although millions of dollars are still being spent on developing a hydrological information system through a World Bank funded Hydrology Project that involves several central, state and private agencies, no one knows what has been gained in the first phase of the project that started in 1995, concluded in 2003 and what is the status of the second phase, involving 13 states and eight central agencies, that started in 2004 and which is expected to finish in 2012.
Groundwater is interlinked to hydrologic, ecological and human use systems and consistent apathy towards land use and surface water use is fraught with unintended, irreversible and unpredictable consequences. Village communities in Rajasthan have living experiences of how groundwater recharge dynamics depends on the permeability of soils and flow patterns are often only weakly related to short term fluctuations in precipitation. So far policy makers, including those from the World Bank, have failed to learn from such communities that provide a compelling logic to amalgamate land use and water use policy for undertaking steps to change the current state of mismanagement in the matters concerning land, surface water and ground water. ¡¡
The Central Ground Water Board had circulated a model bill for groundwater regulation that proposes a centralized system of regulation by state agencies. What remains unresolved is improved access to information, legal standing for groups and individuals to force protection of public interest and for social action and creation of democratic institutions capable of functioning between the village and the state. The model bill must be prepared democratically from scratch incorporating social and natural wisdom of the village communities. ¡¡
While it is true that in such a situation grounder water cannot be left unmanaged, what is required is not community management alone but its marriage with National Groundwater Recharge Master Plan and a reformed model bill to protect the ever-declining aquifers of the country.
Gopal Krishna is a public policy analyst with avid interest in ecology and public health. He is convenor of WaterWatch Alliance.