Sunday, April 17, 2011

Experiences and Knowledge Sharing Workshop on Water Management in VDC Level

A half day workshop for sharing knowledge and experiences of Godawari VDC with Lubhu VDC people was organized at Godawari Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Committee (GDWSSC) office premises, Godawari VDC on 8th April, 2011. The logic behind organizing this programme is to share the experiences and achievements in terms of water management in Godawari with Lubhu VDC people who have been making efforts to improve its water management techniques. The programme brought the two VDCs, Godawari and Lubhu into a common ground where dual objectives were enthusiastically achieved, sharing of experiences and demonstration site visit for Lubhu VDC, the peri-urban site selected for the pilot intervention.

A total of 18 people from Lubhu and Godawari VDC have participated in the programme. The executive committee members from the GWDSSC shared valuable experiences and understandings with the participants from Lubhu. The key personnel from Godawari were president- Mr. Shyam Krishna Silwal, ex-president- Mr. Purushotam Silwal and Vice-president Mr. Ram Chandra Acharya of GDWSSC. The participation from Lubhu VDC involved the members from the recently formed VDC Water Resource Committee which comprised of different stakeholders actively involved in the management of water in Lubhu.

Godawari VDC is a well known for its panoramic views and water resources. The water management in VDC has been very impressive however unlike expected by outsiders about VDC, to have unlimited water resources, the situation was drastically different. The VDC itself is rich in water but the available sources have been tapped by several neighboring VDCs including Harisidhi, Bisankhu Narayan and Thaiba, thereby leaving limited extractable water sources for the use of Godawari people.

Looking back to the history of water management in Godawari, water distribution was initiated by Nepal Water Supply Corporation (NWSC) during late 1970s where it provided 27 public taps covering entire VDC. With gradually increasing in settlements, it further increased water demand which finally led the VDC people to look for sustainable water management scheme. The VDC having its own water source was an advantage while the challenge was initiating the full fledged result oriented water management scheme.  Having already introduced the provision of free water access through the public taps installed by government organization, systematizing and bringing under the rule was not easy. Regarding this, one major issue that the Godawari team reiterated was the need of depoliticizing the developmental works and water, being a basic human right, equitable access to it is a must.

Under the leadership of the then President of GDWSSC- Mr. Puruswotam Silwal, GDWSSC came into formation in 1993/1994 A.D. The new scheme came up with innovative ideas of establishing committee as an independent and self sustained institution. This drinking water committee has been gradually cutting existing public taps down from 27 to 21 and now 8 being in operation. The intended beneficiaries of the public taps are poor, marginalized and economically deprived ethnic groups. Each of these is handed over to groups, each constituting of 7 households with responsibility of total monitoring and maintenance of the tap.
 Experience Propagating Consumers Pay Concept
 Mr. Ram Chandra Acharya quoted, "Free access to water leads the free riding problem and public taps leads to tragedy of commons, here being water. Water consumption in one public tap is equivalent to 10 private taps so avoiding the wastage of water and sustainable water management for long term well being of the people needs to follow consumers pay principle where of course economic capacity has to be considered for meeting the needs of diverse population".
Having water sources in the VDC itself, the need was arranging financial support and building technical capacity. This team believed, for the long term sustenance and institutionalization, local investment is pivotal and therefore they avoided involvement of donors, be it governmental support or any non-governmental funding agency. In the process of arranging financial support through the local residents and the private organizations, they first started with an extensive household survey which identified the social and economic composition within VDC and also estimated the water demand and available yield within the VDC. The residents within the VDC were then categorized into different economic hierarchy and based on their capacity, different households and institutions were charged differently which ranged from minimum charge to over lakhs.
Sharing the experiences by Mr. Ram Chandra Acharya, Key person from GDWSSC
"The efficient water management should look not at short term gains but it should be far sighted and strive for long term benefits. Systematizing the water management might entail making unpalatable decisions in the short term but in the long term benefits it would be good for the VDC and the people. The set rules and regulation should be strengthened with the local awareness and motivation campaigns and maintaining discipline is obligatory. To avoid any distortions in the payment of tariff, strict penalty system of as much as 50% fine should be kept…
They prepared local technical human resources by arranging training program to the interested local people so that they can look after the schemes’ technical problems. The water reservoir and distribution tanks including the laying of pipe has been under the scientific supervision integrating the geological and engineering guidelines to avoid any procedural errors and incidental havoc.  The consistency in monitoring has been maintained where, this water resource committee analyses and make an assay of the equipments and delivers the parts to be maintained so as to ensure the standards. Considering the likely problem of water obstruction in entire region due to problem in one of the reservoirs common in conventional water distribution models, VDC has opted for multiple reservoirs constructed at different areas of the VDC for isolating problem such that under the cases of unavoidable problem in one will still continue the other sectors to perform thereby delivering water services in the region.

Currently this committee has been serving around 1000 private taps where regular meter reading is conducted and the consumed water is charged with graded water tariff system at the monthly rate of minimum NPR. 10 for 10,000 litres, NPR.25 for 20,000 litres and increasing with the increased water consumption thereby having a control mechanism for the water misuse.
Meanwhile, the facilitators also shared how they formed the key functionaries. The nine wards of the VDC were divided into 47 bastis (residences), and elected one representative from each basti with six years of working period while the executive committee, selected from 47 representatives, was constituted keeping 2 years of validity period. This mechanism of selecting key functionaries also has been beneficial in identifying problems and solutions of the problems and at the basti level.

The team emphasized water management is not one time process and therefore regular monitoring is essential for understanding the changing context of demand and supply scenario. Ensuring long term sustainability needs integrate environmental management and forest conservation to conserve the water sources. The Godawari people are hopeful on having water security for coming five decades but have envisioned the need of harvesting rain water to meet the growing demand.

The Godawari team suggested Lubhu VDC to consider certain points in mind while planning and implementing drinking water management project:

  •          Drinking water is fundamental right of the people,
  •          Water should not be provided in free of cost in order to best utilize the limited resource,
  •          Need of rain water harvesting,
  •          Avoid politics in social developmental works,
  •          Forest Conservation for water source conservation,
  •          Do not depend upon donor agencies for constructing their water supply system,
  •          Proper management of available resources rather than searching of new sources.
The Godawari team appreciated the shared learning dialogue program and further shared their future plan to visit Palpa in Western Nepal for similar kind of program where they are planning to observe the water management in the hilly terrain.
Sharing by Mr. Ram Gopal Singh, a participant from Lubhu
 "In Godawari despite having own water resource, Godawari residents have been paying tariff for water services while in our case (Lubhu), we are depending on external water sources via public taps but have no system of charging tariff thereby causing excessive wastage of water. We have been looking for external funding agencies for solving our problem which after knowing the case in Godawari, we feel needs to be considered again. This visit has been a guide to understand inter connected matters that essentially need to be considered to overcome the possible obstacles that come across. "
The representatives from Lubhu have been highly impressed from the existing water management practice in Godawari. The major contrast in water management initiatives taking place in these two VDCs was unanimously noted by Lubhu residents as an encouragement to step forward to solving problems.

On critically analyzing own strengths and weaknesses, the Lubhu team concluded that the homogenous traditional Newari Community and political unity in terms of water management are advantages for them whereas absence of water source in the VDC itself and need of exploring reliable water source is the major challenge. With years long history of free access to water from Chapakharka source and Dovan Khola, getting local peoples’ approval for paid water services is also not less challenging.

Currently, the Lubhu VDC people are just having public taps. This Shared Learning Dialogue Programme clicked their mind on the wastage of available water resources via public taps and started rethinking on supplying drinking water via private taps. Regarding replacing public taps and promoting private taps, based on own experiences, Godawari team suggested to go on a gradual steps which will be congenial for different economic groups. After getting to know, the daily water consumption in the entire Godawari VDC was around 5 lakhs litres, Lubhu participants expressed their doubts whether their problem was water availability or unmanaged water distribution system. In this respect, the facilitators from Godawari suggested to conduct a detail social survey for identifying the demand and supply and also stratifying the social and economic composition for arranging the cost needed for the construction of water infrastructures from VDC itself.
There has been growing interest of different water stakeholders on the concept of generating fund from the local consumers itself and charging for the provided water services. They have shown interest in arranging a meeting on this matter and sharing the learning from Godawari VDC with the local people for undertaking acceptable action as soon as possible. However with multitude of challenges to overcome, Lubhu VDC people need consistent perseverance and commitment for solving their problems.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Professional diversification and labour migrations in Peri-urban villages of Gurgaon – A field perspective

The field experiences continue to grow and become more enriching with each and every visit. An integral aspect has been, to be able to find something new every time we go to the field. A part of this experience has been to understand the local professional pattern and the kind of impact this has on the migration pattern in peri-urban villages. These experiences are derivatives of close observations and resulting inferences. After all, not everything in research needs statistical justification!! 

A general observation in peri-urban villages of Gurgaon has been identification of people with different backgrounds, different professions, different constrains and different perspectives. Professional diversity stands out as a very important aspect, especially in the context of peri-urban villages. Field experiences have revealed that increasing number of villagers go to local urban centres for working in private companies/factories, government offices etc. With increasing emigration of village labourers, a corresponding dearth in village people working as labourers in the village, has been observed. In fact, a common comment from villagers has been – gaaon ke mazdoor kam ho gaye hain (the village labourers have reduced) or gaaon ke mazdoor ab rahe he nahi (the village labourers do not exist anymore)! The reduction in number of village labourers can have very interesting consequences as observed during one of the field visits. In Sultanpur village, when the Sarpanch was asked why the local johads could not be cleaned under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), he quickly retorted that there are very few village labourers and even they are reluctant to work under NREGA. He also added that although he has the money, he does not have village people ready to work!  Few more interesting observations were made at household level. In one such household, a Zamindar said that he was sure his children did not even know where their lands were! Although such remark by a traditional Zamindar sounds innocuous, what it points towards is a change, which in the coming years will become an integral part of life. These changes are becoming evident in the peri-urban villages, pointing towards the increasing professional diversification.

The outflow of village labourers and the corresponding professional diversification has also resulted into inflow of labourers from local urban centres to these villages. The primary driving force behind the immigration of labourers from urban centres is obviously the availability of work. Another factor that might be causing the immigration is relatively less expenditure on accommodation, food etc. The number of these immigrated labourers increases even more during the harvesting season. With an increase in the number of immigrated labourers, the few village labourers, if any, face stiff competition. Since the immigrated labourers are ready to work for a relatively lesser price, the village labourers are forced to sit at home. This was the story of one of the Balmik families in Jhanjhrola Khera. When asked if they don’t have any work, they promptly replied – Agar kaam hota to yahan baithe thode he na rehte (If only we had work, we would not be sitting here).

What this points out is that there is a whole lot of dynamics associated with the migrations of labourers between urban and peri-urban centres. Since flow of labour is one defining features of peri-urban region, researches cannot afford to be blind to them. Looks like the great migration is not the story of past, or confined only to urban centres, but is very much part and parcel of peri-urban lifestyle!

Monthly update (April) – Gurgaon project

One of our lead researchers, Dr. Vishal Narain spoke at the India Water Forum (IWF) organised by TERI on 15th April 2011. The title of his talk was ‘'Water security and vulnerability: perspectives from a periurban context". This was a part of the session on "Sustainable cities, water supply and distribution". The event was organized in association with the Ministry of Water Resources and the Department of Drinking Water Supply, Government of India. The IWF theme was ‘Water Security and Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities.

Dr. Narain will also attend the water justice workshop in Pune from 18 to 22 April 2011. This workshop is jointly organized by WUR, SOPPECOM and the FORUM for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India.

The Gurgaon research team met Mr. Swapnil Shekhar from Sambodhi. This was part of exploring possibility of involving them for their help in analysis of data and also capacity building of the team through training programme.