Sunday, April 22, 2012

Capacity building workshop of Junior Engineers from Public Health Engineering Department, Gurgaon

The capacity-building and training workshop of the employees of the PHED (Public Health and Engineering Department) was organized on the 12th of April, 2012. It was attended by nineteen employees of the rank of Junior Engineer (JE), two employees of the rank of Sub-divisional Engineer (SDE) and two employees of the rank of Executive Engineer (EE). They represented the divisions of Gurgaon, Faridabad and Sohna.

          Participants from Gurgaon, Faridabad and
 Sohna divisions of PHED 
Dr. Anjal Prakash briefing the participants
 about peri-urban water security project 

The workshop began with an introduction by Dr. Anjal Prakash on SaciWATERs and its activities as well as the on-going IDRC supported project on Water Security in Peri-urban South Asia – Adapting to Climate Change and Urbanization. He then lead the participants through a game in which they were given cards to introduce themselves in pairs as an ice-breaking exercise and to share their expectations from the workshop as well as one major challenge each  that they faced in their jobs and with regard to dealing with water as a resource. 

PHED Officials penning down their
expectations from the training
Participants sharing with their colleagues, 
expectations from the training, organizational challenges 
& challenges of dealing with water as a resource
The participants  identified several challenges that they were faced with: prominent among these were the low awareness among water users about how precious water resources were, rampant misuse of water, widespread illegal connections, abuse by water users including threats and occasional physical violence, poor distribution infrastructure and frequent burning of motors. They expressed concern over any lack of fear of public authority among water users because of which they misused water and abused PHED property.  While electricity thefts were considered as punishable in society,  the same did not seem to apply to water, that was considered a much more basic good and water thefts as legitimate ways of quenching thirst and meeting basic needs.  Another issue was the relationship between energy and water; on account of erratic power supply, water users pump water whenever electricity is available. Understaffing and the absence of mutual accountability relations between the water users and providers was another problem.

This was followed by a presentation by Dr. Vishal Narain who spoke about the need for the training of the employees of the PHED in the larger context of the current project. He said that urbanization and climate change were both impacting the water availability in peri-urban locations. These were aggravating the impacts of water insecurity already experienced by people on account of such factors as caste, class, gender and location. While the project was only of three-year duration, a long term engagement of the workshop participants with their field settings made a case for a sensitization to issues of peri-urban water security. The aim of the workshop was to supplement and enhance their skills in dealing with managerial and social issues.

Dr. Vishal Narain briefing PHED officials
about rationale of the training 
As part of the role play, a dialogue in
progress between the villagers and PHED officials 

This was followed by an interesting role play led by Dr. Anjal Prakash in which the participants split into two groups; one each representing the villagers and the PHED. Two senior participants were designated as observers. The team representing the village then approached the team representing the PHED. The villagers complained to the PHED regarding the absence of water supply for ten days; a blame game and accusations followed. After the role play, the observers presented their observations, namely, that the villagers while accusing the PHED of poor supply did not mention the specific problem or reasons. Nor did the PHED representatives try to find out or explore what the problem was. The overall message was that both sides should have communicated more effectively and clearly.

This was followed by a discussion on several problems in providing water supply to peri-urban locations.  An important issue raised was that rapid urbanization invited migrants who came in as temporary settlers in areas where they were not registered or shown as inhabitants. This leads to underestimation of population to be served and results in several errors in planning. Since water is considered basic to human sustenance, water thefts are not even recognized as such.  Field staffs often face the lure of money as a corrupting influence on one hand and threats and physical assault on the other.  Even if PHED property is damaged and an FIR is sought to be lodged, such a request is not entertained.

This was followed by a short presentation by Dr. Anjal Prakash on gender issues in water supply and he shared experience with a range of water supply improvement options and solutions in peri-urban, urban and informal contexts. He also gave examples of cases where water supply had improved even under conditions of water scarcity and suggested the possibility of organizing an exposure visit of PHED employees to see such successful experiments. 

In the afternoon, the group was joined by representatives from Sultanpur village. The afternoon session began with the screening of a participatory video that was scripted, acted out and shot by a group of women from Jhanjhrola Khera. The video was about the health effects of consuming unsafe water and how women could take precautions through a wide range of options for treating water before drinking. 

Screening of Participatory Video
 from Jhanjhrola Khera

The village headman from
Sultanpur interacting with PHED officials 

This was followed by a dialogue between the representatives of Sultanpur and the workshop participants. The former shared their experiences and problems in getting drinking water in the village. They get water from the Gurgaon Water Supply Channel. There is a problem of water distribution internally. They have cement pipes that are easy to rupture or break or take illegal connections. These pipes need to be replaced by D.I. (Ductile Iron) pipes. The workshop participants from the PHED said that it was important to have tutis (taps) installed over all the connections to prevent wastage of water. Mr. Pradeep Kumar, the Executive Engineer in-charge of Sultanpur then suggested that as a follow-up to the local stakeholders meeting that was organized in the village, he had placed order for replacement of the pipe by a D.I. pipe, that had been approved. In due course, this would be done and then through a village level meeting, they could develop a plan for forming a water management committee and handing over the distribution infrastructure to them.

The meeting ended with a round of circulation of cards on which the participants scribbled their major learning. For most participants, the major takeaway was the need for more effective communication between water users and service providers. As a follow-up, Dr. Anjal Prakash suggested a continued engagement with the PHED and the possibility of further capacity-building activities through exposure visits as well as training on technical issues and subjects. 

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