Today, only 31% of the 167 million rural households in India have access to tap water and domestic toilets (Census 2011). About 67% of the rural population continues to defecate in the open and India accounts for about 50% of the world’s open defecation.
The project will be implemented over a six-year period and will support the design and implementation of a dedicated RWSS program for low income states under the ongoing National Rural Drinking Water Program in the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MoDWS). Phase 1 of the project, approved by the World Bank Board, will support RWSS programs in 33 districts in the states of Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. These states have the lowest coverage of tap water with Bihar at 2.6%, Jharkhand at 3.7%, Assam with 6.8% and Uttar Pradesh at 20.2%. Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh also lag significantly in sanitation, with more than 75% of the rural households not having access to latrines within their premises. This project is expected to directly benefit about 7.8 million rural people in these states.
“Some 3.8 million women, who bear the burden of securing daily water supplies and dealing with illnesses from poor water and sanitation facilities, are expected to benefit from improved facilities that will get created in the project areas. The project will reduce the time spent by women in collecting water, which they can now use in other productive ways,” said Onno Ruhl, World Bank country director for India. “The World Bank’s Country Partnership Strategy is focused on promoting decentralized and community-based participatory approaches in delivering water and sanitation services. This project will pilot schemes at the local level where the capacity of Gram Panchayats (GPs) will be enhanced, and, together with the Village Water Supply and Sanitation Committees, they will be empowered and enabled to make decisions, procure material, carry out construction and manage funds,” Ruhl added.
This is in keeping with the government of India’s long-term strategy of covering 90% of the rural population with piped water supply through decentralized governance, participatory planning, and by improving water sources and schemes. Studies suggest that the economic impact of inadequate sanitation in India is equivalent to 6.4% of GDP in 2006. Under the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan or the Clean India Campaign, the government is incentivizing Open Defecation Free Villages by giving cash support to households for constructing toilets with an emphasis on Solid and Liquid Waste Management programs for achieving clean villages.
The World Bank has been supporting the government of India in piloting and scaling up RWSS Programs since 1991, contributing more than $1.4 billion and benefitting about 24 million rural households in over 15,000 villages. This project will support sustainable RWSS programs by linking GPs with higher levels of government and strengthening the capacity of PRI institutions; integrating water supply and sanitation interventions and promoting solid and liquid waste management and health and hygiene awareness programs.
Other key components of the project include investments for improving water supply and sanitation coverage, including construction of new infrastructure and rehabilitation of existing schemes. Most habitations will be served by Single Village Schemes (SVSs) using local groundwater sources. Multi Village Schemes (MVSs), which mainly rely on surface water sources, will be taken up for those habitations where the local source is either not sustainable or not of acceptable quality.
The sanitation component will support construction of soak-pits, drain and lane improvements, community awareness programs for improving sanitation and hygiene practices, along with incentives for achieving ‘open defecation free’ status. In addition, the project will promote pilot programs for 24/7 water supply and introduce new technologies in the RWSS sector, including the use of solar energy.
“One of the major shifts that the four states will witness is the decentralized service delivery arrangements and increased participation by the PRIs and communities. This is expected to help enhance accountability at all levels. The project will also get into ‘twinning’ arrangements with successful on-going Bank supported RWSS projects in India and learn from the good practices that they have already demonstrated,” said Smita Misra, lead water and sanitation specialist and the project’s task team leader.
The Project will be financed by a credit from the International Development Association (IDA) – the World Bank’s concessionary lending arm – which provides interest-free loans with 25 years to maturity and a grace period of five years.