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Assessing the “Plus” of successful community-managed water supply programs in India

In India, community management of rural water supply has a long history, with several well-documented success cases However, there is also widespread recognition that communities need support from government and other entities, in order to deliver sustainable services. The "Community Water Plus" project attempts to analyse the support mechanisms to community in 20 rural water programmes across India that are acclaimed to have been successful, and seeks to assess the resources incurred in that.

This paper presents the research framework used, and the findings of the first four case studies: the World Bank supported rural water supply and sanitation programme in Punjab, the Jalanidhi programme in Kerala, WASMO in Gujarat and the TWAD Board "change management" experience in Tamil Nadu. The salient findings indicate that State governments (supported by external funding programmes), have developed specifically designed units (like in Punjab ,Kerala and Tamil Nadu) or even dedicated organizations (such as WASMO in Gujarat) with the formal capacity and professional skills to support the communities on mobilization, institutional building and capacity building at all levels. The support was intense during capital investment phase, demand creation, needs assessment, creation of management capacity with sufficient resources allocated and spent for this purpose. There has been reasonable to high levels of professional performance with clear division of roles and responsibilities exhibited both by communities and support organisations. The type of partnering includes high levels of empowerment (community contracting), strong organisational structure and procedures for hiring adequate human resources. However, during the service delivery phase, the support becomes less intensive. In fact, Gram Panchayats (GP) become first line of support to communities, taking that over from State government during this phase. But often this results in blurred lines between Village Water and Sanitation Committees (VWSCs) and Gram Panchayats, as to who carries out the service delivery role, and who provides support and oversight. A more proactive monitoring and support by State government is rarely observed. State governments' role becomes stronger again during the phases of capital replacement, when again intensive support is provided both technically and financially. Based on these first four case studies we conclude that successful community management happens where State governments duly empower community organisations during the project planning and implementation phase. But that in turn happens only where State governments have a strong community focus and organisational culture focused on that. The communities are able to meet the regular operational and maintenance costs through water tariffs and community contributions, and it is evident that communities do pay for regular services. Transparency in account management and informing decisions through Gramasabha acted as critical inputs to the successful community management. We also conclude that during service delivery, a form of management is occurring which takes a mix of what can be labelled as "community management with direct support" and "direct provision by public bodies", as we see that GPs take over many of the actual management tasks of VWSCs.

TitleAssessing the “Plus” of successful community-managed water supply programs in India
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsSnehalatha, M., Smits, S., Jasthi, S., Hutchings, P., Poonia, R., Daniel, Ch., Chandra Dash, P.
Corporate AuthorsIRC
PublisherIRC and Cranfield University
Place PublishedCranfield, UK
Keywordscommunity management, Community service provider, post construction support, rural water supply, service levels
Abstract

In India, community management of rural water supply has a long history, with several well-documented success cases However, there is also widespread recognition that communities need support from government and other entities, in order to deliver sustainable services. The "Community Water Plus" project attempts to analyse the support mechanisms to community in 20 rural water programmes across India that are acclaimed to have been successful, and seeks to assess the resources incurred in that.

This paper presents the research framework used, and the findings of the first four case studies: the World Bank supported rural water supply and sanitation programme in Punjab, the Jalanidhi programme in Kerala, WASMO in Gujarat and the TWAD Board "change management" experience in Tamil Nadu. The salient findings indicate that State governments (supported by external funding programmes), have developed specifically designed units (like in Punjab ,Kerala and Tamil Nadu) or even dedicated organizations (such as WASMO in Gujarat) with the formal capacity and professional skills to support the communities on mobilization, institutional building and capacity building at all levels. The support was intense during capital investment phase, demand creation, needs assessment, creation of management capacity with sufficient resources allocated and spent for this purpose. There has been reasonable to high levels of professional performance with clear division of roles and responsibilities exhibited both by communities and support organisations. The type of partnering includes high levels of empowerment (community contracting), strong organisational structure and procedures for hiring adequate human resources. However, during the service delivery phase, the support becomes less intensive. In fact, Gram Panchayats (GP) become first line of support to communities, taking that over from State government during this phase. But often this results in blurred lines between Village Water and Sanitation Committees (VWSCs) and Gram Panchayats, as to who carries out the service delivery role, and who provides support and oversight. A more proactive monitoring and support by State government is rarely observed. State governments' role becomes stronger again during the phases of capital replacement, when again intensive support is provided both technically and financially. Based on these first four case studies we conclude that successful community management happens where State governments duly empower community organisations during the project planning and implementation phase. But that in turn happens only where State governments have a strong community focus and organisational culture focused on that. The communities are able to meet the regular operational and maintenance costs through water tariffs and community contributions, and it is evident that communities do pay for regular services. Transparency in account management and informing decisions through Gramasabha acted as critical inputs to the successful community management. We also conclude that during service delivery, a form of management is occurring which takes a mix of what can be labelled as "community management with direct support" and "direct provision by public bodies", as we see that GPs take over many of the actual management tasks of VWSCs.

Notes

Paper submitted to India Water Week 2015

Disclaimer

The copyright of the documents on this site remains with the original publishers. The documents may therefore not be redistributed commercially without the permission of the original publishers.