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In 2001, Odisha was tagged under the Empowered Action Group (EAG) states besides other 7 states and was devolved with major proportion of the funds under the Rural Connectivity Scheme and Drinking Water Supply Scheme (Kumar & Das, 2014). This was also compounded with political will and advocacy from central government in 2015, which reinforced programs of water, sanitation and hygiene. Since then, the state faced a daunting task to drive the programs against the community rigidness and easy acceptability of open field defecation. This was due to disparity between the socially acceptable pour-flush toilets and the levels of water access. Coverage of improved water sources, is comparatively high in the rural areas of Odisha, but it may not be sufficient for flushing purposes on top of other daily water needs.
On the whole, Odisha still remains economically and socially a backward state in India and hence it presents an interesting study for this research.
The villages of Kaliabeda and Lahanda are located in the Kedujhar (or Keonjhar) district of north-eastern Odisha. Over 75% of the population in these villages is recognized by the Government of India as scheduled castes or scheduled tribes (Census of India, 2011). As of 2011, a majority of households in both villages had access to an improved community level drinking water source, while over 2.7% of households in Lahanda have access to any sanitation facility, compared to 0% of households in Kaliabeda. Majority of population are categorized as “marginal workers” and literacy rate is just 42% in Lahanda compared to 71% in Kaliabeda (Census of India, 2011).
Table 4: Demographic data on Lahanda and Kaliabeda villages (Census of India, 2011)
Population Households Male Female Schedule Caste Schedule Tribes
Lahanda 104 26 50 54 38 0
Kaliabeda 865 298 450 415 76 584
The villages are situated adjacent to each other, separated by national highway 215. Nearest town is Joda, which is 4 miles away and the state capital, Bhubaneswar is 146 miles away. Tata Sponge Iron Factory and Jindal Steel Factory are located near these villages and are one of the major employers of the community. A stream, Sona Nadi goes past these villages in the south, which also acts as the main water source.
Figure 1: Location of Study Area
Figure 2: Tata Sponge Factory is just half a mile away from the study area
c. Data collection
The hypothesis of this research was assessed by questionnaires, focus group discussions, interviews and field observations. The questionnaires were used to evaluate the existing conditions of water supply systems and the degree and type of participation by community members. They were also used to evaluate the institutional support during design, constructions and maintenance phases. The questionnaire included questions about community contribution (capital, labor and material), female participation, technical factors (construction, operation and maintenance), financial factors (water tariff, willingness to pay), health factors and environmental factors (water quality and quantity and sustainability of the water source) (Appendix B). Information was verified using cross check questions.
Focus group discussion were arranged with the women of every household in the villages to obtain information about their participation in the decision making processes, issues related to collecting water and its quantity and quality as well as health issues. Interviews were arranged with local Village Committees, Panchayats, Gram Vikas staff and district and state government officials concerning water supply assessment and their technical support, women and minority groups’ participation, training and water service management.
To understand the realities of the water supply system, field visits were conducted in the villages. Information discussion with users and Gram Vikas on-field staff were conducted to get direct information about the water point. The field observation helped me to identify the realm of water supply issues in part of its quantity and quality, distance travelled to the water source, waiting time to fetch water, duration of water supply and community decision-making processes.
Apart from that, secondary data tables for demographics, amenities and drinking water services at the state and local levels were collected from Census of India, Ministry of Rural Drinking Water, Ministry of Rural Development and Odisha Department of Rural Development websites. Reports from AguaClara and Gram Vikas were also analyzed to inculcate on their models. Previous projects of AguaClara in Honduras and Gram Vikas in Odisha were also studied to give a clear understanding on their concept and technicalities.
In India, rural water supply systems are constructed by local and state government offices, NGOs and other concerned organizations. In Lahanda and Kaliabeda villages, these organizations are Odisha Department of Rural Development, Tata Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Group and Gram Vikas. The installed systems are either stand posts, hand pumps or bore wells with public taps.
d. Data analysis
Many water management problems stem from competition, interconnection and feedback among natural and societal processes within a political domain. Within the natural domain, the interplay between three important variables – water quality, water quantity and ecosystems – can lead to conflict. Within the societal domain, there are equally complex interdependencies and feedback among social values and cultural norms, assets including economic and human resources and governmental institutions.
In this research, I am exploring the question of whether the partnership between Odisha, AguaClara and Gram Vikas is a successful initiative for sustainable rural community-based water systems. For this purpose, I need to characterize the aforementioned interacting variables and processes. I will start off by concentrating on the dominant variables in the societal domains within a political context. Natural domain is already called for in the site selection section. The presence or absence of one or more variables within the societal processes in the study area shall help in guiding my thesis.
Prioritization of variables in the societal domain is difficult as the methods for characterizing these variables are not yet developed. It is difficult to calculate the effects of governance structures with similar accuracy and certainty as in measuring water quantity. The best method of capturing context specific information about interaction of variables in a societal process is to involve representatives of all relevant actors and groups. This will be done using the adaptive learning approach. Adaptive learning occurs at the intersection of identify, innovate and implement. It starts with the identification of water management network, in this case, the villages of Kaliabeda and Odisha. Then, possible changes in past practice will be considered. The implementation strategy will emerge from the structure and actions of the network.
Henceforth, the essence of community-based approach to water delivery is a collaborative design and construction among community members, government officials, external technical experts and NGO staff. Their incentives will determine whether, in practice, they actually collaborate, and institutions affect these incentives.
e. Description of the interventions
1) Indian Governance Structure
The primary responsibility of providing drinking water facilities in the country rests with State Governments. The efforts of State Governments are supplemented by Government of India by providing financial assistance under Accelerated Rural Water Supply Program (ARWSP). ARWSP has been under implementation since 1972-73. Under ARWSP, the following norms are being adopted for providing drinking water to rural population in the habitations
40 liters per capita per day (LPCD) or 11 gallons per capita per day (GPCD) of safe drinking water.
One hand pump or stand post for every 250 persons.
The water source should exist within 1.6 kilometers (0.6 miles) in the plains and within 100 meters (110 yards) elevation in the hilly areas.
ARWSP was renamed as the National Rural Drinking Water Program (NRDWP) in 2010. NRDWP is a central government sponsored scheme to provide adequate and safe drinking water to the rural population of India. The scheme focuses on the creation of water infrastructure, and ensuring service delivery and sustainability of water supply schemes.
Under the Twelfth Five Year Plan, NRDWP is focused on surface water based schemes rather than on groundwater based schemes to decrease the pressure on groundwater extraction and to ensure water potability. There is also a focus on piped water supply through stand posts and on increasing household connections through extensive IEC (Information Education and Communication). Service levels are proposed at 55 LPCD (15 GPCD) from 40 LPCD (11 GPCD) and all new water supply projects account for life cycles costs and not just capital costs. Additionally, priority has been given to minority areas and funds have been earmarked for coverage of SC and ST population concentrated areas.
Additionally, NRDWP has proposed to achieve 100% piped water supply to households in a timely manner through intensive monitoring of the water supply schemes. Subsequently, Integrated Management Information System (IMIS) has been upgraded and the focus has shifted from habitation wise monitoring approach to a scheme wise one. About 77% of rural habitations in India have achieved a fully covered status (40 LPCD / 11 GPCD), under the NRDWP, and 55% of the rural population have access to tap water. However, in some areas, implementation of rural drinking water projects has been delayed over the past few years. Some reports suggests that until December 2016, only 44.5% funds under NRDWP were utilized and 53.5% works were completed (Jacob & Lala, 2017).
In Odisha, Rural drinking water supply facilities are controlled by Department of Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (RWSS) organization since 1991. However, the management of drinking water supply projects has been transferred to Gram Panchayats in 2006 for their management, operation and maintenance. Generally, provision of drinking water supply to the rural population is made through hand pump, tube wells and piped water supply schemes. Priority is given to not covered and partially covered habitations. 45% of the annual NRDWP funds is earmarked for this purpose which is spent for piped water supply schemes along with installation of spot sources (hand pumps, tube wells, and stand posts). The Government of India & Government of Orissa share the cost of these schemes in 50:50 ratio. Priority is also given to fluoride affected habitations followed by salinity and iron contamination. 20% of the annual NRDWP funds is earmarked for this purpose. 10% of NRDWP fund are also utilized for operation and maintenance of existing rural water supply systems though these functions are yet to be transferred to the PRIs as they lack human resources and knowledge capacity to do so. RWSS is also responsible for water quality monitoring and surveillance, communication and capacity development, management of information system (IMIS) & digitization of all the data.
With several schemes being initiated by the state and central government, it is essential to investigate for an insight view of the entire program to measure the extent of success on ground. This research will examine whether the communities in Kaliabeda and Lahanda have actually benefitted from these schemes and whether the government assistance and provisions have actually reached them.
AguaClara was initiated in 2005 in a partnership with a local NGO, Agua Para el Pablo (APP) which focused on providing piped water to poor communities across Honduras. The organization was started by its current director Monroe Weber-Shirk, senior lecturer at Cornell’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The principal goal is to develop and implement innovative water treatment technology that both provides sufficient drinking water to meet national standards and does so at an affordable price for low income communities. Apart from this, the AguaClara technology is engineered to be operator friendly that is robust and easy to run with one operator. AguaClara and APP have together built 9 plants in 7 low to moderate income rural communities.
AguaClara plants are constructed using local labor and locally available materials. They make use of generic suppliers rather than specialized components. Since the plants are gravity-fed, they can operate without electricity. Also, use of valves and moving parts are minimized to reduce costs. The plants are robust and resilient and are optimized for low-cost and high-performance as they are easy to construct using low-precision construction techniques
Water boards associated with AguaClara facilities have invested in reforestation of watershed, upgraded distribution systems, extended distribution systems to add new customers, and funded ongoing maintenance of water supply infrastructure. Customers are willing to pay for clean water. This is particularly noteworthy in Honduras where most water treatment plants for large cities do not reliably meet drinking water standards, and users resist rate increases. Several towns with AguaClara facilities are experiencing reverse migration from the capital, Tegucigalpa, due to their superior water.
On these lines, AguaClara is seeking to broadcast and develop its technology on a global scale, starting with a pilot project in India. In their meeting with Gram Vikas last year, AguaClara found a potential in them to manage a project that will be long-lasting, and they have the institutional strength to take a pilot to scale.
3) Gram Vikas
Gram Vikas, is a non-governmental organization based in Odisha, which has implemented its Movement and Action Network for Transformation of Rural Areas (MANTRA) water and sanitation program in more than 1000 villages since 2002. The program involves household-level piped water supply and toilets coupled with community-level mobilization in minority areas in particular. The water and sanitation intervention is rolled out in a three-phase structure During the first phase, representatives of Gram Vikas visit the selected village to assess village interest and progress towards a set of Gram Vikas norms, including: (1) commitment of every household to participate, (2) formation of a village corpus fund from contributions from every household and (3) creation of village rules for maintenance and use of facilities.
Once this set of norms is taken care of, the village advances into the second phase of the intervention where each house constructs a pour-flush toilet and a separate bathing room. The households provide their own unskilled labor and locally available materials to complete the superstructure. Gram Vikas provides materials such as PVC pipes and porcelain pans. At the same time, a water tank, community meeting space and piped water distribution system connected to every household, with taps in the toilet and bathing rooms and a separate tap in the kitchen, is constructed through a collective process.
All households must construct a toilet and bathing room for the village to progress into the final phase of the intervention, in which the water system is turned on. This model is different from government-led NRDWP schemes, which do not require community-level participation and do not offer piped water supply at the household level.
For treatment of water, wherever possible gravity flow water supply systems are used, overcoming the difficulty of having to pump water where there are no electricity connections, or having to pay expensive electricity bills for pumping water. Gram Vikas is currently using bleaching powder and semi-filters to treat well waters for disinfection. In the villages of Kaliabeda and Lahanda, there is a chance that they will require chemical dosing. Hence, they have expressed interests in AguaClara’s Enclosed Stacked Rapid Sand Filter (EStaRS), as they saw that it addressed a major need in these villages.
a. Political domain
Currently, Odisha Rural Water and Sanitation Department is responsible for the installation of piped water supply systems and spot sources (standposts, handpumps and borewells). According to RWSS chief engineer, Janmejoy Sethi, at an operational level, piped water supply schemes pose some problems. According to 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, the operations and maintenance of rural water systems have been vested upon Gram Panchayats, but still RWSS carries out the maintenance of piped water supply systems. The maintenance of the spot sources has been assigned to Self Employed Mechanics (SEMs) to be carried out on a weekly basis, under the guidance of the Department. The gram panchayats that are tasked with this work are short-staffed especially engineers. Shifting to piped water supply therefore entails involving private operators with problems of expensive tariffs and accusations of profiteering. Connections costs are between INR 1500-2000 ($23-$25) per house. The monthly tariff is fixed at about INR 30 (50 cents) per house. Gram Panchayats are responsible for collecting these tariffs but 90% of the fees have not been collected in many villages. Hence, these schemes recover only about 40% of their running costs.
According Mr Sethi, from the year 2006-07, the maintenance work of the spot sources has been delegated to the Gram Panchayats (GPs) with budgetary support from the Government of INR 2,00,000 per year to the GPs. Under this initiative, the GPs will pursue technical assistance for major repairs of spot sources from the RWSS department. There will be a mobile maintenance unit for regular operation and maintenance of water supply systems and sources within the Panchayat area. Though the GPs have been authorized to carry out all responsibilities, the question is whether their practical involvement and difficulties have been attended to. The transparency of the activities of the Gram Panchayat is also questionable.
In spite of clear instruction to the RWSS to carry out the maintenance activities, the outcome is yet far from satisfactory level. The reasons defended by the questioned RWSS pertain to shortage of funds, for both spare parts, and staff salary.
However, Gram Panchayats in the study area reported that currently the electricity tariff for community based water systems is charged at public institution rates, even though it is only for domestic use. High income groups install pumps at their residences to extract water from these pipes, depreciating other residences of consistent water supply. These groups are charged domestic rates for private bore wells or pumps, representing the sorry state of affairs concerning the minority groups. Also, many of the spot sources in the villages are not functioning properly due to high electricity charges and the community hence are not being able to pay the bills.
The chief engineer at RWSS also stated that their maintenance record is abysmal. A look at the expenditure on maintenance by RWSS showed they spent just 5% of the allotted funds in 2016-17 and about 15% in the preceding two years. He stated that this was due to the decrease in allocation of funds from central government to the state in the last two years. Because of this, no new projects have been undertaken by the department. Only existing systems are being repaired.
Another RWSS staff engineer accounted that the piped water supply schemes installed so far have been less reliable than hand pumps. They fail because of power fluctuations that burn out motors, leaking pipes and when sources dry up. It is costlier to fix these than a hand pump and the local hand pump mechanics are not trained or equipped for the job. Piped water schemes are hard to install and run and are financially unviable.
The engineer also mentioned that the availability of drinking water facilities remains very poor in the state of Orissa. Only 25.6% of households are covered by piped water supply or by hand pumps in the State as against 88.5% households covered at the national level. Frequent breakdown in tube wells and rural piped water supply units is another problem area. The rural people in many parts are still not tuned to appreciate the value of safe drinking water.
However, when it comes to village participation in the decision-making processes of such schemes, communities are only considered when the placements of spot sources are to be determined. The villagers are not involved from the initial phases of the design and hence do not feel a sense of ownership towards the projects. User satisfaction surveys are not carried out after the project is completed nor the officials from RWSS visit the villages for monthly check ups of the water supply schemes. In the literature review section, it was identified that high levels of participation can only occur in situations where villagers are truly given a choice about what type of project they want, when they want it and how they want it. In other words, presence or absence of social capital influences the existence and effectiveness of water supply systems as community members’ sense of ownership for their water system could be expected to arise from their participation in its planning and construction. In this case, villages show very low levels of participation in the government-led projects.
The 73rd amendment made the gram panchayats a critical link amid the village community and the state, based on which development projects can be planned and initiated. It is questionable that on ground these panchayats are not capable to operate and maintain the water supply systems in the rural areas due to lack of staff and necessary funds.
While interviewing Tata Sponge Iron Limited’s (TSIL) Corporate Social Responsibility Head in Joda, it was mentioned that the company has already provided 45 number of open wells, 96 hand pumps and 18 bore wells in the surrounding villages, school campuses & public health centers. The company maintains the hand-pumps to ensure annual consistent water availability in these villages. Also, during peak summer months, drinking water is provided to few villages situated in hilly regions. Conversely, Gram Panchayats reported that officials from TSIL rarely visit to check and maintain their hand-pumps. They do not involve villagers in the decision-making of their water supply projects at all.
In Lahanda, 2 hand pumps and 1 bore well have been installed by Government of Odisha under NRDWP scheme, 2 other hand pumps have been installed by TSIL CSR group and 5 stand posts by Jindal Industries.
In the village of Kaliabeda, 2 hand pumps, 6 stand posts and 3 bore wells have been installed by TSIL CSR group and Jindal Industries. Out of them, one is out of order.
b. Societal domain
1. Local Community
The inhabitants of Kaliabeda and Lahanda villages are mostly tribal and almost indigenous. They are mostly employed as marginal workers in the neighboring Tata Sponge Iron Industry and Jindal Steel Industry with average monthly income of INR 3000 to 4000. The community is religiously composite with Hindus, Christians and Muslims. Most of the community belong to either Scheduled Caste or Schedule Tribe. The tribal living here are namely Gonds and Mundas. The latter are most prominent in the villages. The Gonds speak Gondi, a language belonging to the Dravidian family. Presently, the Gonds of the villages know and speak Oriya. They are settlers from the central part of India and their superiors are called Mahapatras and Singhs.
The Mundas are divided into numerous clans known as “Killi”, a name taken from some animals, plants or material objects. Nuclear family is common among them. All the members of the family participate in the common economic and social activities. Their traditional headman is known as Munda who along with the village elders look into the social and religious matters of the tribe. Mundas are primarily daily laborers. They sometimes migrate to distant places to work as laborers in mines and quarries.
Both the villages are neat and well maintained. The households take turns to look after the operation and maintenance of the villages. The young men in the communities carried out any minor repairing work required and the expenditure was shared amongst the occupants. None of the members of the community were aware of NRDWP schemes or SEMs.
Figure 3: Villagers depend on the water from Sona Nadi for daily household chores
Figure 4: Poor quality drainage system clogs water near one of the government installed public taps
As far as water infrastructure installed by the government is concerned, some of the hand pumps and bore wells in the villages were of poor quality and dysfunctional. They were some issues of water logging in the surrounding area as well. In the village of Kaliabeda which is divided by state highway, villagers had to cut their way through the busy traffic to walk to the other side in order to collect water as the bore well near the homes was not working. Houses on the hilly terrains had no water point available to them at all and had to walk their way downhill to collect water every day. Due to poor water infrastructure in these villages, villagers sometimes end up taking water directly from Sona Nadi. Hence, diseases such as cholera, malaria and diarrhea are also prominent in these areas.
During household-level interviews and focus group discussion with women, it was found that in the village of Lahanda, average consumption of water is 300 liters daily per household. The villagers (especially women) travel 100-300 meters daily to collect water. Time taken to fetch water is 30 minutes to 1 hour and 10-15 rounds were taken to collect water daily. However, the duration of water supply in government constructed point sources was less than 4 hours and quality of water is muddy and brackish especially during the rainy season. No maintenance fee collected but villagers usually spend INR 500 on electricity bills and INR 2,000 on repairs and construction of water supply infrastructure.
Figure 5: Focus group discussion with the women of Kaliabeda village
In Kaliabeda, average consumption of water is 200-300 liters daily per household. The villagers (especially women) travel 100-300 meters daily to collect water. Time taken to fetch water is more than an hour and 10-15 rounds were taken to collect water daily. However, the village faces erratic supply of electricity, leading to pumps not working properly. The villagers end up taking water directly from Sona Nadi. Quality of water from the government installed sources is smelly, muddy and brackish especially during the rainy season. Maintenance fee of INR 30 per month is collected and villagers usually spend INR 500 on electricity bills and INR 1,600 on repairs and construction of water supply infrastructure.
The villages also lacked toilets and almost everyone in the community practiced open defecation. It is common to see men defecating on the roadsides or in the fields, usually in the mornings or evenings. Also, people defecating outside at night live in fear of snakes and scorpions. With the increasing population, many wastelands and small woodlands that were previously used for defecating are now fenced off for farming or construction. This is why women are driven to this twice-daily round of humiliation on the roadsides, which have effectively become open-air toilets for majority of the population.
Figure 6: Tata CSR group constructed some toilets in the region, most being dysfunctional
These issues are important in a sense that the villages, Kaliabeda and Lahanda were quite well-off financially. These villagers own cell phones, have a color television in their homes and a two-wheeler to commute but still open defection is considered an age-old practice, which is a sorry state of affairs It is important to make them aware of the harsh health consequences of such a practice. The women bear most of the health responsibilities: they are the ones who take care of the household chores, so they have to understand the implications of open defecation and poor hygiene.
Water and sanitation, though spoken about together in debates, are not promoted together in practice. This is a serious flaw, since the improper disposal of wastes lead to continued contamination of water bodies. The government schemes need better convergence: in the absence of a holistic approach, total sanitation will not be achieved.
2. Gram Vikas – Catalyst for community mobilization
Gram Vikas, through their Rural Health and Environment Program (RHEP) intervention, uses water and sanitation as an entry point for creating unity and enabling communities to start their own development. They spread their work in mostly underdeveloped and tribal areas, when they feel that there is a cooperative leadership and that people would possibly be willing to support the program. Government officials and elected representatives also help Gram Vikas identify new villages. To date most of Gram Vikas’ development has been in marginalized communities, that is, the south, south west and northernmost areas of Odisha. They have not reached out to communities in the coastal regions as most of the State elected representatives belong to these areas and hence, most of the Odisha development funds are directed there. These regions are also concentrated with the rich, privileged populations of the state.
Gram Vikas started off their RHEP project in Kaliabeda and Lahanda earlier last year. Currently, they are constructing toilets and bathrooms at household level in these villages. This was done with the help of project teams (12-15 staff members) and volunteers from the villages. These volunteers majorly consisted of women groups.
All or none, in-built financial stability, paying for use, taking responsibility and participatory management are the key elements of Gram Vikas RHEP approach. Before the intervention in water supply and sanitation project in the villages, Gram Vikas put forward some key non-negotiable rules that must be followed by all community members:
- All male and female heads of households must participate in the program, ensuring 100 percent participation of all community members (all-or-none aspect).
- The water supply will not be connected to the households until they have a latrine. This is done to stop the practice of open defecation.
- Each household must contribute INR 1,000 on an average to community corpus fund, which is held in a deposit account and will help further expansion of the program. This is done to ensure that each new family entering the village is not devoid of a toilet and bathing facility.
These rules are vital in a way that in order to make villages open defecation free and eliminate water borne diseases completely, it is vital that 100% of villagers participate in the program. Involving male and female heads from every households, eliminate caste and gender barriers and raise the self-esteem of the minority groups. Corpus fund ensures that even the poorest, marginalized communities meet the capital costs of constructing toilets and bathrooms, capital costs of water supply and O&M costs. Collecting corpus fund from every household ensures that the responsibility of meeting the social costs is taken over by the village. It also creates a sense of pride and ownership among the villagers unlike the projects under NRDWP schemes.
Payments to the corpus fund were calculated in an equitable manner by the village general body, which decided how much each household will pay. Usually the better-off families cross-subsidize the poorer by paying more than INR 1000 and the poorer pay less, but even the poorest contributes at least INR 100.
Additionally, monthly contributions by individual households are also made to cover the O&M costs of the proposed water supply. These tariffs are for the electricity bills. It is done to make villagers associate excess water usage with expenses. The fee was fixed by villagers themselves, and is around INR 20-30 per month.
Additionally, Gram Vikas helped villagers to identify potential sources of income such as social forestry, community horticulture on wastelands, fish farming in village ponds. After this phase, the villagers have to develop the asset and manage it efficiently.
The water and management program provided an opportunity for the villagers to manage resources through village committees. Gram Vikas took the role of trainer and later on facilitator building the capacity of the villagers to run their own affairs so that Gram Vikas can withdraw from these villages in a phased manner upon completion of the program. This prevents creating dependency on an external agency. After the implementation of water and sanitation project, Gram Vikas will attend to the people for a period of between three and five years, in capacity building and establishing gender and social equity.
While interviewing Ashutosh Bhatt from Gram Vikas, he stated that good quality infrastructure is essential to restore dignity of communities; low quality and soon to be dysfunctional piped water systems and sanitation facilities hinder than help mobilizing communities. He insists that what is needed is “cost-effective not low-cost solution, low cost is an added advantage, but not a pre-condition. We only build systems that we ourselves would use.”
Hence, to evoke a sense of pride and ownership among marginalized communities, Gram Vikas took on the initiative to build identical, good-quality twin-pit pour flush toilets for all households, be it from higher caste or lower caste, in these villages. They also plan to provide piped water supply to toilets, bathrooms and kitchens, which is critical as the burden of fetching water rests solely on the women. Also, bathing rooms with piped water supply reduces the incidence of skin diseases as during water months the water is more turbid.
Figure 7: Toilet and bathroom superstructure initiated by Gram Vikas
Gram Vikas is represented in the Kaliabeda and Lahanda by village volunteers and project supervisors. The supervisor facilitates projects in both of these villages as well as some neighboring villages. The project and supervisor are in turn overseen by the project coordinator and his staff in the regional office, which consists of an accountant and an assistant for planning, monitoring, evaluation and documentation. The RHEP manager and his assistant in the head office coordinate the efforts of the different RHEP project offices.
The preparatory phase in the villages of Lahanda and Kaliabeda began with a series of meetings with the community leaders (mostly men). During these meetings, Gram Vikas talked about health issues, women, their income, the environment, and the RHEP and how it could help them generate more income. As soon as Gram Vikas felt that the program is likely to be adopted by the villagers, its staff started to work intensively with the people to ensure they are fully motivated and reach a consensus. A village general body of all the male and female heads of each household was formed. Gram Vikas held meetings with this body to negotiate RHEP norms and adjusted them to suit the village’s circumstances. During these negotiations, conflicts were resolved and the fact that the majority of Gram Vikas staff were drawn from the local area helped smooth negotiations. After a consensus was reached, a written agreement detailing what Gram Vikas will do and what villagers will have to do was legally drawn up and paid for by the villagers. Every household signed this formal agreement. This is because participation of all male and female heads of households is essential to bring people together and cutting through the barriers of gender, caste, political and economic differences.
Because communities in these villages are dominated by patriarchal outlooks, separate men’s and women’s general bodies were formed first to allow the women to gain experience of speaking about their needs to a larger public. These meetings went on until women felt confident to come to a joint meeting and voice their concerns in front of the entire village and men show a greater acceptance of women’s opinions. At this point, the two body merged to form one single village general body. It is this village general body which decides whether the village will take part in the RHEP or not. If even one family says no, Gram Vikas will not implement the program. The idea here is that if you persuade majority of the village, they will convince others as well.
Once the Agreement was signed and the RHEP was implemented, the general body meet every month to examine accounts, discuss progress and any issues arising.
Around the fifth meeting between the village leaders and Gram Vikas, Gram Vikas informed the men that the women must also be involved as they bear most of the health responsibilities. Odisha is a very conservative state and women usually do not leave the house other than for domestic chores. Gram Vikas put a lot of effort into getting the women to venture out of the house, also in raising their self-esteem. On men’s agreement, Gram Vikas’ female extension workers started contacting women on a house to house basis and they had an informal discussion. From there on, the extension workers helped women in forming Self-Help Groups (SHGs) and educated women about savings and credit and sensitive issues relating to health, sanitation, hygiene, family planning and immunizations. The SHGs meet once every month, giving women a reason to leave the house. In this non-threatening environment, women make contact with each other and discuss their problems; they are free to voice their concerns and gradually they gain confidence in public meetings.
Whereas anybody can be a member of a SHG, the women’s general body is made up of only the headwomen of every household. Field supervisor from Gram Vikas informed that initially women from different castes would sit on separate mats and there was not much interaction, but with encouragement from Gram Vikas extension workers they came to understand that they must work together or else Gram Vikas would not implement the RHEP. Thus, clean running water was used as a key to cut off caste barriers. Once women learnt how the RHEP can improve their lives, they became active in getting 100% support needed for the initiation of RHEP.
Gram Vikas Executive Director, Mr Debiprakash Mishra mentioned that it is relatively easy to convince people about the advantages of having clean water at the turn of a tap, but it is still not easy to convince them of the need for sanitation.
“Gram Vikas works on the principle of getting people to agree to join up for the clean running water and from the start tell them that they will get running water only on completion of sanitation. If Gram Vikas did not insist on toilets before it would take a very long time to end the centuries-old practice of open defecation, and rampant disease would remain prevalent in their lives. Gram Vikas works at motivating villagers all the way through the project cycle with the help of informal discussions, exposure visits, films, street plays and influential experts.”
After the Agreement was signed, the general body in both Kaliabeda and Lahanda villages nominated and selected four men and four women from among themselves to form the Village Executive Committee (VEC), which has the final responsibility of implementing the program. The VEC also has proportionate representation of all sections of the community. The VEC stays in place for three years and then the people have the opportunity to re-elect the same individuals or elect different representatives
The VECs then registered themselves as a legal village society which will help the committee in dealing with outside agencies, in particular government agencies. It was a necessary step to allow more effective leveraging of government funds. Various sub-committees were also elected to support the VEC and manage particular development activities, for instance, committees for sanitation, fish farming and forestry.
A meeting of the village general body and VEC happens once a month to discuss progress, problems, future plans and accounts. Details of major expenditures, activities and contribution are displayed publically so that the system remains transparent and accountable. Gram Vikas provided training and capacity building of such committees by holding workshops, leadership development programs and practice sessions.
Soon after the Agreement was signed, baseline survey was conducted in the villages by Gram Vikas RHEP’s field supervisors. Each head of household, male or female was interviewed. Most of the data collected related to factual household characteristics, and data collection was mostly via close-ended questionnaires. Household data were collected on topics such as demography, caste, occupation, land-holding, finances, and access to electricity, biogas energy, food rations, health, education and children’s school attendance. The aim of the survey was to provide a benchmark against which an objective assessment can be made, particularly in the areas of health, financial stability and education.
Once the corpus fund was collected and all the committees were set up, people started the foundations and brick work for the toilets and bathing rooms in the villages. Gram Vikas staff provided with the infrastructure layout. It also provided master masons to train local youth and for supervising construction work. It also started a barefoot-engineers training program to develop a body of trained people to carry out basic engineering tasks and supervising the construction work.
Sona Nadi flowing through the southern end of these villages was identified as a suitable water source for the piped water connections. Gram Vikas has tested the physical and chemical content of the stream: levels of arsenic, nitrate, chloride, fluoride, hydrogen sulphide. Iron as well as concentration of e-coli are tested. As the stream shows a higher NTU and is turbid during summer seasons, Gram Vikas wants to treat its water using cost-effective pro-poor technologies. It is in this phase that their partnership with AguaClara will be of utmost help.
Usually, the total cost of constructing a toilet and a bathroom per household is INR 8,500. Gram Vikas subsidy per household is INR 3,000 which accounts for 35% of the total costs. The rest of the costs are borne by the households (INR 1,000 corpus fund and INR 4,500 for local materials and labor). The households below poverty line receive a subsidy of INR 1,200 by Government of India under NRDWS scheme.
The water supply system is funded by Government of India under their NRDWP scheme. The households contribute INR 2,250. All the software and institutional costs are funded solely by Gram Vikas foreign donor agencies. Software costs includes capacity building and training programs, leadership building, gender equity programs and education and livelihood programs for the villagers. The foreign donor agencies include – Christian Aid, UK; Interchurch Cooperation, Netherlands; and the European Union.
3. AguaClara – Technical Expertise
AguaClara technology treats surface water with turbidity over 500 NTU to less than 5 NTU. The process for surface water treatment – flow measurement, chemical metering, rapid mix, flocculation, sedimentation and filtration – is powered by gravity, with a total elevation drop of less than 1.5 meters, far less than conventional water treatment plants (Table . AguaClara designs are open source to facilitate technology dissemination, reducing design costs. Its parametric engineering design capability makes it possible to create customized design solutions for community water systems. This facilitates use locally available materials that in turn lead to long-term sustainability and enhanced reliability. The open process design with no enclosed tanks reduces construction costs, simplifies maintenance, and provides feedback to the operator for optimal plant performance. The hydraulic and environmental engineering design and engineering support services costs $1000 (INR 65,000) per liter per second of plant capacity, less than 10% of total project costs. National engineering firms (nonprofit, private or government) build AguaClara treatment facilities using community labor. Community labor ensures that communities know their plant from the inside out, and experience the pride of ownership.
Table 5: AguaClara solutions to issues in conventional water treatment plants
Major barriers to safe drinking water AguaClara Solution
electricity is unavailable or intermittent gravity-powered plants
planned obsolescence of proprietary components components designed to last for many decades
treatment processes not visible, thus hard to understand (“black box”): leads to poor performance based on operation by tables and rules treatment processes easily observed and understood: leads to high performance based on visual feedback from the processes
frequent breakdowns with multiple failure modes, plants frequently offline resilient, robust plants with few moving parts
high operating costs force operators to bypass treatment for low turbidity water in dry season low operating costs ensure the plant is not needlessly taken offline
inconsistent access and unsafe water make community members resistant to pay safe, reliable water makes community members willing to invest in upgrades
expensive imported proprietary technologies plants are economical to build, operate and maintain using community labor and local materials
plants are not operator-friendly: important processes are exposed to sun and rain and are far from the control room, thus plant operators don’t monitor processes during rain storms
plants are designed with the operator in mind: enclosed/provide an attractive work environment; all important processes are visible from control station
If the turbidity from the source is consistently low (less than 10 NTU), the full treatment process is not necessary in order to achieve effective disinfection. AguaClara plants do not treat hardness in water. However, they can solve it with calcium scaling in pipes and fixtures by lowering the pH of the water. In a gravity-fed water system, the sources of water to be treated must be combined and piped to one location where the plant can be built. The community must be able to sustain operation of the plant, either by means of a water tariff or another form of financial support and there must be a qualified implementer of AguaClara technologies able to work in the specified location.
For surface water sources having turbidity levels slightly above the permissible limit (10 NTU and 1000 NTU), AguaClara designed an Enclosed Stacked Rapid Sand (EStaRS) Filter that can be easily combined with the traditional overhead tank system for villages. The EStaRS Filter is designed to be affordable and sustainable. The first EStaRS was installed in the villages Gufu and Ronhe in the Khunti district of Jharkhand, India. They are paired with AguaClara’s Chemical Dose Controller (CDC) for disinfection.
AguaClara’s CDC features Semi-automatic operation as it maintains the dose the operator sets even with varying plant flow. Gravity powered design employs an innovative approach to chemical dosing by having the flow of chemical controlled only by the elevation difference between the end points. Coagulant for flocculation is universally available and a safer granular calcium hypochlorite is used for disinfection, avoiding chlorine gas accidents.
c. The partnership between AguaClara and Gram Vikas
The first thing we need to confirm before proceeding with a pilot project is the set of water quality issues faced in the villages of Kaliabeda and Lahanda. Gram Vikas has expressed turbidity does exists in Sona Nadi that flows through these villages. They are looking to install semi-filters in these areas for disinfection. This means that AguaClara’s EStaRS filters will need to be installed in conjunction with the CDC. In the sites where turbidity is below 10 NTU, they only treat the water by adding bleaching powder to the well, suggesting AguaClara’s CDC is sufficient. In either case, it is evident that the main water source in the villages of Kaliabeda and Lahanda is surface water based (Sona Nadi), meaning there is a potential for AguaClara to work in these locations.
Gram Vikas is planning to install piped water supply systems which are 24-hr supply systems with uphill sources that gravity feed all the way to household taps. It would be important to know the most common range of flow rates that the supply systems deal with so AguaClara can design the most widely-applicable CDC for the context.
Through the analysis, it is known that Gram Vikas’ core competency covers many of the required factors necessary to build AguaClara water treatment plants. They have taken the responsibility of mobilizing the communities for their projects. In fact, they are able to convince communities to undertake comprehensive water and sanitation interventions – they build water and sanitation infrastructure together, and sanitation facilities are meant to be user-friendly (they include not only a toilet, but an area for bathing) to promote high utilization. Moreover, Gram Vikas has a policy of bringing interventions to an entire panchayat at once, which means if the AguaClara-Gram Vikas partnership is taken to scale, it is more logistically and economically feasible to establish post-construction support services in the future.
In addition to mobilizing communities, Gram Vikas has substantial internal technical capacity. They have multiple engineers on staff who have participated in the design and execution of the supply systems. These engineers can be easily familiarized with the AguaClara technology.
There is substantial scope for spreading AguaClara’s chemical dosing technologies throughout the region. From the analysis provided by Gram Vikas, there is a good chance that the sites will require chemical dosing in conjunction with EStaRS filters. Also, the communities deal with high turbidities during the rainy season, suggesting that AguaClara might have the opportunity to pilot their new 1 liter per second full scale plants.
There is also an opportunity for AguaClara to broaden the scope of the program to provide more comprehensive water and sanitation solutions. For instance, they can work to develop better sludge management systems both at the household level and at the treatment site. They can also work to develop stronger post-construction support programs to ensure that communities have organizations to turn to when larger maintenance of troubleshooting issues arise. In particular, if AguaClara is able to scale the technology, they can attempt to institute a circuit rider program, where a few highly skilled technicians make periodic visits to the communities to ensure that everything is running smoothly.
Conclusions and Recommendations
a. Synthesis of natural, political and societal domains in Odisha
Through the site selection process and on field observations, it was quite evident that Sona Nadi shows high level of turbidity, especially during the rainy season. However, it is protected from industrial contamination and agricultural runoff that could result in fertilizer/pesticide contamination. Also, the average annual rainfall in the region is 1,534.5 mm suggesting that there is consistent aquifer recharge. As these factors fall within the criteria of a successful site for AguaClara pilot project, the presence of strong natural capital is established.
Under the societal domains, technical assets are well present. Gram Vikas is already in the phase of constructing toilets and bathrooms in the villages as well as laying down pipes for 24-hour water supply. Water will be delivered to every household for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and bathing purposes. Gram Vikas RHEP projects are proved to be reliable, equitable and effective in the past. AguaClara can collaborate in water treatment provision using their EStaRS filters and CDC.
As far as the local community is concerned, villagers visually perceive a water quality problem and fundamentally understand the effects of unsafe water. Gram Vikas has mobilized them to learn basic engineering and microfinance skills so that they can have the ability set up a local supply chain for required chemicals and can contribute towards the construction of AguaClara plants as well as monitor and operate them in the future. The Village Executive Committee overlooks all the village affairs, collects corpus funds and monthly tariffs and smoothly negotiate any conflicts. The villagers trust Gram Vikas which instilled their self-esteem by providing them with clean drinking water and sanitation facilities. Gram Vikas was able to cut through gender and caste barriers in the village through weekly meetings with the village general body.
Under local institutions, Gram Vikas already works in the delivery of potable water and sanitation for rural communities in Orissa so they believe themselves to be experts in introducing such systems into communities. Gram Vikas mobilizes, educates and trains communities on how to construct, manage and maintain their own water and sanitation facilities. As part of the RHEP project, community members pool resources to construct identical toilets and bathing rooms for each household, with clean piped water from a community-constructed water tank. Additionally, they have in-house engineers which makes it easier for AguaClara to train them on their water treatment technology.
Hence, the synergy between AguaClara and Gram Vikas fits perfectly with the inferences drawn from the literature review for successful rural community-based water systems.
It has been proved that the synergy between AguaClara and Gram Vikas would be beneficial for rural community-based water systems in Odisha. However, there are still some missing links which need to be addressed.
Drinking water in India is a State subject. Central government develops policies and financing programs and releases funds and grants to the states. These are basically used up by public sector water boards leaving essentially nothing to rural communities. We have seen that the Odisha RWSS and Gram Panchayats have not been working efficiently with the rural communities due to mismatch of roles, absence of capacity building mechanisms and necessary funding. First and foremost, water and sanitation functions should be devolved to local gram panchayats so that they receive the funds directly from the central government. Also, location-specific gram panchayat-centered institutional mechanisms and clarity of roles and responsibilities is essential for successful implementation of NRDWP schemes. Such schemes can also work in conjunction with the Gram Vikas RHEP through post-construction support mechanisms for rural communities.
AguaClara has previous experiences in Honduras and this will be their second time in India. They should be aware of the nuances of caste and gender divisions in the country and how they affect the provision of basic services. Odisha is a very conservative state with high number of minority lower caste groups. Gaining trust of these people would initially be very difficult for any external agency, even AguaClara, as villagers will be unable to relate to them. However, the presence of Gram Vikas will smoothen this process.
In Honduras, average tariff is approximately $2.90 per household per month and AguaClara showcases total cost recovery. However, purchasing power parity in rural India is much lower compared to Honduras; the currency is INR compared to dollars. The monthly tariff collected in these villages for rural water supply systems is less than a dollar per month which would in fact adversely affect the recovery costs of these projects.
One way to go about this is – AguaClara should develop a comprehensive training modules for devising fair fee scales, to aid the long-term operation of the water treatment plants. Such tariff structures might require metering. However, AguaClara water connections are unmetered, and the cost of metering would likely offset any of the benefits. Therefore, as a preliminary step, AguaClara should develop a three-tiered income based flat fee structure to cover costs and protect low-income households. Also, revolving fund method can be used to recover capital costs. Revolving fund is a mechanism where the savings from investments in a project and other forms of developments are captured and reinvested to either reduce the need for new finance or to increase the impact of what finance there is.