Synthesis Document - Expertise and resources needed for inclusive and lasting water supply and sanitation (SuSanA India Chapter Thematic Discussion)


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Re: Theme 1 - Expertise and resources needed for inclusive and lasting water supply and sanitation

I am Kurian Baby, a water sector development professional. For this discussion, I am seeking your inputs for Panchayats with respect to the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM). On the heels of the globally acclaimed Swachh Bharat Mission for household toilet coverage, the GoI has now launched yet another ambitious JJM to provide piped water to every household in India by 2024.

India can make it happen by strengthening its near universal coverage of protected drinking water at 93 per cent (JMP, 2017) and showcase a universal global model of sustainable universal sanitation and piped water (Functional Household Tap  Connection (FHTC) with 55 lpcd) for all. The GoI budget for 2021-’22 has allocated approximately INR 50,000 crores (INR 5,000 billion) for JJM. The success of the programme is critical for fighting poverty, avoid massive slippage in sanitation, health outcome and for assured basic human right. The mission will be successful, when, “everyone in India expects and receives water and sanitation services indefinitely”.

However, it is not an easy task. Despite significant cumulative sector investments over the years by national, state, local governments and communities, piped water coverage has remained near stagnant over the past two decades.  Key sector concerns are unsustainability – technical, financial, institutional and managerial and source failure. The  service delivery  agencies are weak, devoid of accountability to the consumers and tax payers while panchayati raj institutions[1] (PRIs) lack the skills to discharge their functions of planning, oversight and monitoring.

Most water supply models are also not sustained on account of complexities in management in the absence of professional  post-construction support. The country is caught between the rehabilitation and maintenance of a huge languishing infrastructure already created on the one hand, and simultaneously expanding coverage to new and challenging areas, on the other.  Among all the risk factors, the most critical is the institutional capacity constraints.  The targets are so huge that the country needs to achieve three times more than what it has  achieved during the past seven decades. Though attempts have been made to address the capacity concerns in the JJM guidelines, more clarity is required at the operational level and  there are strong chances of diluting and bypassing the capacity building elements.

Unless adequately tracked, the programme could fall into the regressive bureaucratic-target-hardware–supply driven model resulting in serious service delivery slippage and investment failures. Most of the village water and sanitation committees,  DWSMs and SWSMs may also become mere ornamental institutions to part finance the programme.

Building hardware in water supply is easy, managing it sustainably is indeed complex and challenging. The fundamental question is are we putting the horse behind the cart? Whether the proposed institutional architecture, particularly the local governments and communities have the capacity to co-evolve and successfully implement JJM cost-effectively and successfully?. Whether our water utilities, departments and local governments have the capacity and mind-set to manage the created assets professionally during the entire life-cycle to deliver inclusive and sustainable services for everyone forever?

To make the JJM successful in achieving targets and outcomes, we are opening up the challenges of institutional and  stakeholder capacity for discussions, suggestions and recommendations.  We would like to understand

How the capacities of PRIs, communities and civil society can be enhanced so they can implement JJM in letter and spirit as equal partners with the departments, public and private service providers, from project planning through approval, procurement, contract management and monitoring.
  • How would this capacity building strategy harmonise with the theory of change?
  • How can utilities and service providers be made accountable to PRIs and the consumers, so their services are efficient and customer-focused? How can consumers be made accountable for responsible behaviour? What incentives and disincentives can be provided to achieve this?
  • Please suggest how service providers can be capacitated to embrace SMART water practices including real-time monitoring and data analytics for efficiency improvement sustainable service delivery and value for money?
  • The estimated average central allocation for JJM would be around a third of the total capital cost per FHTC. How the states and local governments be capacitated to mobilise finance and bridge the funding gaps?
  • How  to capacitate the capacities of the utilities, service providers and PRIs to mobilise and utilise funds that may be 4-5 times more than that of their average annual uptake?
  • How to capacitate the utilities and local governments in asset management to avoid slippage and ensure sustainable
  • service delivery during the life-cycle of the project and beyond?
Note: [1] Panchayati raj institutions are directly-elected local government institutions in rural India, responsible for water supply and sanitation planning, oversight and monitoring
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  • I am a Environmental Engineer, currently pursing PhD in Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. I am working on Faecal Sludge Management for a town. I am looking for collaboration to provide solution for FSM by experimental investigation on FS from different onsite containment and paper publications.
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Re: Expertise and resources needed for inclusive and lasting water supply and sanitation (SuSanA India Chapter Thematic Discussion)

Dear Nitya Jacob.

Nice initiation. It is need of the hour for India.

I have done a study in rural, urban and semi-urban part of Maharashtra on this. Kindly find my study in the below link.

It will be my pleasure to be part of this initiation. 

I have completed my BE in civil engineering with a distinction in 2011.
From 2011-2013 I worked as a software engineer in IBM.
later I completed my master in environmental engineering in NIT Warangal . My Mtech thesis was done in NEERI, Nagpur on "Indoor air pollution in micro-environments".
In 2015. I joined academics as Assistant professor and worked on issues like the design of landfill, MSW management, Air pollution, Decontamination of geomaterials, etc.
Currently, I am doing my PhD in faecal sludge management.
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Expertise and resources needed for inclusive and lasting water supply and sanitation (SuSanA India Chapter Thematic Discussion)


Rural drinking water and sanitation have got a makeover in the past few months. The Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM), the revised version of the national rural water supply initiative of the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS), Ministry of Jal Shakti, puts the onus of providing piped water supply on Panchayats. It dovetails with the second phase of the Swachh Bharat Mission that expects Panchayats to advance the frontiers of sanitation based on the results of the first phase. This includes solid and liquid waste management and treatment of faecal sludge.

In both, the emphasis is on sustainability. Panchayats have been made responsible since they are the constitutionally-mandated local institutions for all development work. This is welcome, though belated, as Panchayats at all levels will need a whole lot of support, much more than the two schemes proposed. ( Read about their roles and responsibilities here (page 3) .

Currently, only about 12 per cent villages are completely covered by a piped water system (PWS), according to JJM data. Hence, there is a tremendous need for expanding PWS. There are challenges of water quality as well. Regarding sanitation, the last Swachh Sarvekshan Grameen in 2019 showed high coverage of solid and liquid waste management. Actually, most  Panchayats will need to step up solid waste, grey water and faecal sludge management. Toilets need to be provided to families left out of the 2012 Baseline Survey by SBM-I through inclusive measures, retrofitting or repair of toilet infrastructure.

Additionally, much more behaviour change will be needed to ensure usage, promote hygiene practices (handwashing,  handling child faeces and menstrual hygiene management). Gram Panchayats (GPs) are responsible for planning, funds flow, coordination and monitoring. All these should be part of their village action plans (VAPs).

For this, they will need technical, social and financial support and capacity building. For technical issues, GPs can draw upon the Public Health Engineering or equivalent technical departments, but there are practical constraints to fulfil this. Additional expertise is available from implementation support agencies (ISAs). Village water and sanitation committees (VWSCs), a sub-committee of GPs, are to coordinate the work for both JJM and SBM II.
The District water and sanitation missions (DWSMs), a coordinating and planning body of officials, district Panchayat members and engineers, are to federate VAPs into District Action Plans (DAPs), fund them and provide support through ISAs to plan and execute VAPs.

Institutional Challenges in Service Delivery

There are multiple problems with these arrangements. DWSMs seem to be in place in most states and played a role in SBM I;   technical experts and NGOs may be included. Even where PRIs are robust, they are often reduced to contractors or funders of government schemes. PWSs are complicated to design and build as are faecal sludge treatment plants (FSTPs). There are issues of source sustainability, leakage, billing, water quality and equity that affect functionality. Waste water management is spotty across India; any visit to rural India is incomplete without wading through slush from overflowing drains. SBM II helpfully provides ‘technical’ solutions that are to be implemented for this.

VWSCs do not exist, or are dormant, in most states. Where they do exist, they do not understand how water supply schemes are costed nor how tariffs are set. Half the VWSC members are to be women. To change this paradigm, VWSCs will require technical support for both infrastructure planning and monitoring, and behaviour change activities.

The support institutions are weak. A study by IRC in collaboration with UNICEF Odisha on the capacities of the three pillars of service delivery in rural Odisha, the bureaucracy, technocrats and Panchayats, showed they were woefully ill-equipped and ill-trained for the job.

Junior engineers who are to assess and oversee the installation of handpumps (and now piped water networks) have a scanty grasp of the technicalities of the work.  There are usually one or two junior engineers in each block responsible for water and sanitation, in addition to other development works. While bureaucrats in block offices are informed about their responsibilities to repair faults they have little idea of how to plan and manage PWS and sanitation projects. The consultants recruited for SBM I in districts and blocks are also not trained to support the technical or social aspects of SBM II or JJM.

Those that matter most, the Panchayat members, are only provided an overview of all development programmes after being elected. But they are not taught details that would help them plan, oversee or monitor water and sanitation. PRIs therefore have almost no technical or financial capacities to fulfil these tasks. They need separate, in-depth training.

That leaves ISAs, usually NGOs or technical consultancies. But JJM and SBM II give them a role only in ‘software’ activities. These are mobilising people, changing behaviour, setting up institutions (VWSCs, for example), training them to monitor, etc. ISAs are not to be involved in technical work. That is the preserve of engineers and service provider companies, that will be evaluated and empanelled by the state water and sanitation mission (SWSM) concerned. The table below gives an overview of the people involved in water and sanitation at different levels.
 Elected Representatives



StateMembers of legislative assemblies, minister(s) concernedAdditional/Principal secretary, Director State Water and Sanitation Mission, consultantsEngineer in Charge; Superintending Engineers for specific areas or verticalsEmpanelled engineering companies for PWS, ISAs for software support and a team of
DistrictZilla Parishad membersDistrict Collector; PD-District Rural Development AuthorityExecutive EngineerConsultants, ISAs
BlockBlock Samiti membersBlock Development OfficerAssistant EngineerConsultants
Gram PanchayatSarpanchPanchayat Executive OfficerJunior Engineers 
WardWard members 
Broadly, the technocrats in most states are responsible for drinking water. Administrators run the sanitation programme. PRI members are mandated to plan, motivate and monitor both. The guidelines issued for JJM and SBM II lay down the structure and responsibilities of SWSMs and DWSMs (or district SBMs) from the state down to the GPs. The table below outlines the kind of training each category and level of personnel have received. These are provided by the respective state’s institute for rural development or a key resource centre appointed by DDWS.
Who were trained?On what?
Zilla Parishad (ZP) members and Block Panchayat presidentsRural development schemes: Course on the major development schemes to prepare Gram Panchayat development plans[1] (GPDPs) covering the role of PRIs, sources of funds, procedure to hold village meetings, get approvals, negotiating with technocrats and bureaucrats, monitoring and training. Both water and sanitation are covered
PRI members and frontline workers[2]Drinking water and sanitation concepts, the role of PRIs, solid and liquid waste management, hygiene and norms of safe drinking water.
Block Development Officer (BDO), Junior Engineers (JEs)Drinking Water Schemes and SBM training on programme, goals, procedure to apply for household latrines and release incentives, types of toilets, CLTS and working with the government.  They also cover roles and responsibilities regarding water supply and fault repair
Assistant Engineers and Junior Engineers (AEs and JEs)
Engineering modules and manuals for O&M of rural drinking water supply covering technical  aspects, GIS, legal background for ensuring services, the roles and responsibilities of engineers, PRI members and officials, procedure for registering and attending to faults, community engagement. They also undergo CLTS orientation courses and are provided an overview of SBM, payment of incentives, types and structure of toilets
Consultants at all levelsNo training is provided. They are hired for their skills
Way Ahead: Crucial Questions

As Panchayats have to gear up for the long haul on water and sanitation, they need technical and financial skills for planning, management to work as equal partners. It is critical to understand what skills are available, and are required, at various levels to help them. The central question is, how can they be empowered to work as equal partners, not contractors or funders, with the local governments and service providers.

There is a huge opportunity that these programme have in truly empowering Panchayats to move beyond just infrastructure creation to service delivery with a rights-based approach. If they perform their functions as mandated, they can hold service providers and the administration responsible for effective and transparent basic services. District governments are again the fulcrum of planning, funds flow and monitoring these programmes. Panchayats are the executing agencies, tasked also with planning and monitoring.

This discussion will separately examine these issues for JJM and SBM II with respect to Panchayats. Dr Kurian Baby will facilitate the first theme starting from tomorrow. It will be open for comments till 16 February. Some questions suggest themselves from the foregoing:
  1. Please provide examples or case studies where Panchayats have worked as equal partners with the government and service providers to plan, execute and monitor water supply and sanitation. What conclusions can be drawn from these case studies regarding the technical and managerial capacities needed in Panchayats and VWSCs to effectively run SBM II and JJM?
  2. Please provide examples where the VWSCs have been strengthened to effectively discharge their functions in terms of planning, financing, contracting, documentation, monitoring and troubleshooting? Have they sought support from ISAs and how?
  3. At what level are ISAs needed most - district, block or panchayat? Please give examples.
  4. Is there a recommended number of engineers at different levels per 100,000 people for water supply and sanitation? What are the minimum additional staffing requirements in blocks and districts to fulfil the technical and managerial tasks under both SBM II and JJM? How can these be met?
  5. How can the district authorities ensure that they achieve necessary coordination between the SBM 2.0, JJM and all the linked departments?
Based on your inputs, we plan to prepare an approach paper to circulate to the community and development partners.

[1] Each Panchayat is to develop a development plan (GPDP) that embodies the aspirations and needs of local people. The
sarpanch leads the process supported by local officials and the village body.
[2] Government employees of various programmes including child welfare workers, accredited social and health activists and self-help group members
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