Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sanitation in India: Intractable Challenges

             As per the latest estimates, 53% of Indian population ( app 600 millions) defecate in open, out of which around 70 % reside in rural areas while around 18.6 % in urban areas. These facts reflect the seriousness of this neglected issue of open defecation which is one of the root causes of various life threatening diseases like GE, Malaria, Jaundice etc. This is also important that poor sanitation, which affects the health of individuals resulting into malnutrition, finally lead to loss of productivity. Apart from this every day around 1000 children below 5 years die due to diarrhea and other sanitation related diseases. There had been attempts by the Government to tackle the problem of sanitation some time in a routine manner and sometime in the form of specific schemes but these attempts failed to achieve the desired success. During 1986 government launched Central Rural Sanitation Programme (CRSP) to improve the quality of life of the rural people and also to provide privacy and dignity to women. This programme was later changed to “Total Sanitation Campaign” (TSC) in 1999 and later on it was termed as “Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan” to eradicate the practice of open defecation by 2017. However the desired results were not received in spite of all big claims and projections. Now the government has again restructured it as “Swatch Bharat Mission” or “Clean India Campaign”. In order to make all such programme effective and to meet the desired objectives, there is need to integrate following issues which have affected the success of all such programme in the past.

1.     India being blessed with varied diversity and multiculturalism requires an   appropriate demand analysis with specific references to location (geography), climate, communities and stakeholders for making suitable strategy.

2.     The fact that 66 % of the Indian households do not have the access to drinking water from treated tap sources while around 80 % devoid of closed drainage connectivity for discharge of waste water, availability of water is one of the major factors that affect any programme considerably which are aimed at optimum sanitation and maintenance of hygienic living conditions. These two factors hence need adequate consideration and concerted efforts.
Source: Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation    

3.    Construction of sanitary toilets is one of the integral components of housing programme hence integration of housing, water and sanitation can act as effective strategy. Alternatively allotting these three departments to one ministry at government level can considerably help in ensuring integration, convergence and effective implementation.

4.     As the open defecation and other sanitation related activities are directly related to health of the individual there is need to involve the primary health department in the programme so that the proper integration is ensured.

5.     Effective mechanism to redress the issues related with proper toilet use like absence of mechanism to monitor the toilet, lack of plumbing and drainage facility, lack of proper consideration of gender based factors etc are equally important.

6.     Adoption of proper design, water efficient models, user-friendly designs and easy to maintain models are essentially need to be given due weightage.

7.     Urban Peculiarity: Though the Urban areas are better placed both in the access to drinking water and also improved sanitation but the problems of water shortage coupled with socio –economic factors and scarcity of space make the problem peculiar and tough for local administrators in Urban Areas (Municipalities and Corporations) and requires a location and issue specific strategy.

8.     The other important aspect that is directly related to sustainable sanitation is the proper disposal of sewerage. In Urban areas where the issue of proper disposal of sewerage including treatment of sewerage and recycling of waste (which is also associated with bio gas production) are to be given due importance.  Same time in rural areas the safe and scientific disposal which includes even reuse of waste for agri-productivity can make a win –win situation for all stake holders of the programme.

9.     As most of the people lacking the toilet facilities are poor and below poverty line, adequate financial assistance either in cash or kind with fool proof disbursement mechanism, less complicated procedures without red-tape, proper monitoring etc. are equally important.

10.  Mothers at home and teachers at school: The role of mother in sanitation and hygiene is most crucial since it is only mothers who is not only   responsible for collecting water and caretakers of sickened family members mainly child due to water borne diseases but as a women she has particular needs for sanitation which makes her position very vital not only in imparting education but also in evolving workable strategy if allowed in decision making processes. Similarly the teachers at school can make a big difference in imparting education for sanitation though it is also ironical that still  about 20 % schools in India lack toilet facilities for girls.

11.  Behavioral Change: Apart from lack of awareness among stake holders about various issues of  Sustainable Sanitation Programme there is need to address the issue of behavioral change which requires to be tackled on top priority because it is not the illiterate and poor who are to be given adequate awareness but in many of the literate communities the well to do and educated people specially male still prefer to defecate in open in spite of having sanitary latrines. In addition to awareness there is need to address the behavioral issues related to sanitation specially open defecation  not only for the individuals but also for the social or political institutions like Gram sabha, panchayats, Khaps etc  where these issues can be addressed once they get social acceptability.

12.  As the provision of financial assistance for construction of toilets is one of the crucial factors for success of programmes there should be a provision of mandatory contribution either in kind or cash. The factors like cost of sanitation improvement and sanitary services including maintenance need to be examined and factored carefully before launching programme at massive scale.

13.  There is need to provide a proactive and supportive platform for the private sector to participate in the programme so that they can become partner not only to assist in capital works but also become partner on operational and maintenance related issues.

14.   As per 2011 survey by the Central Pollution Control Board only 160 out of 8,000 towns had both sewerage systems and a sewage treatment plants. Urban Local Bodies and Panchayats which have been adequately strengthened through 73rd and 74th Constitutional amendments should also be supported  and exhorted  to strengthen themselves through various reforms/initiatives specially for revenue realization which will  provide them opportunities and strength to design, execute and operate desired systems/ interventions.

15.  Proper incentives and rewards to organizations and individuals involved in the programme implementations and initiating new interventions in the areas of proper sanitation and hygiene related programmes should also become integral part of strategy.

16.  The past experiment relating to sanitation programme in West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh helped to highlight the importance of three factors ( also called Toilet Tripod ). These factors  are (1) multi-scalar political will on the part of both government and NGOs ; (2) proximate social pressure, i.e., person-to-person contact between rural inhabitants and toilets;  and (3) political ecology, i.e., assured access to water, compatible soil type, and changing land use  can  play a  crucial  role in the success of this programme.

17.  Last but not the least, a comprehensive strategy and effective policy with due consideration of all above mentioned issues with strong political will to tackle the issue cutting across the regional or political lines will certainly pave way for the achievement of optimum sanitation and ensure better hygienic conditions in the country.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Why JNNURM failed?

JNNURM was one of India’s prestigious and ambitious programmes aiming at the development of infrastructure related activities in urban areas mostly related to drinking water, sanitation, housing and also other service / governance related issues with expected outlay of Rs. 66000 Crores over a period of 5 years. The JNNURM programme succeeded in providing much required financial assistance to needy ULBs / Corporations who were either not financially stable or could not take up such works due to other local priorities including lack of political vision to take up schemes of drinking water and sanitation , housing for poor, waste management schemes etc and in many of the States these programmes were implemented with desired  results. Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamilnadu, Chandigarh etc were few states where by and large the sanctioned projects were completed with success. Another big achievement of the project is implementation of various reforms in the ULBs relating to tax, e-governance, town planning regulations, property tax, citizen services, financial management of the ULBs which have helped considerably to make ULB financially strong and independence and also efficient in the cases of service deliveries thereby assisted to fulfill the objectives enshrined in 74th  Constitutional amendment.
However this prestigious and ambitious programme could not fulfill the required targets not only in utilization of allocated funds by the State Governments apart from other shortcomings which ultimately deprived the Citizens of required provisions/outcome envisaged under objectives of the scheme. Few  reasons responsible for this failure are summarized as under.

1.   Lack of Participation of Communities/Stakeholders: The main reason which affected housing scheme most was lack of participation of the communities while planning and implementing programmes. In most of the cases, the projects were prepared based on political then social needs and grounded. In many of the housing projects whether it was selection of housing sites or allotment of houses to the needy, no due care was taken to involve the beneficiaries in programmes resulting either completion of not much desired projects or non occupation of beneficiaries causing huge waste of money. Apart from this, reluctance of slum dwellers to shift in case of in-situ development of project and availability of encumbrance-free land also posed a major challenge to the States to expedite the housing projects especially under BSUP sub-mission where it was meant to improve conditions for urban slum dwellers in 63 identified mission cities in 31 States and UTs for 479 projects.

2.        Lack of political support for housing and slum development projects: The role of local representatives to motivate and facilitate the negotiations for housing related projects is very crucial to make or mar the progress of any government scheme however in many of the ULBs this active role of local representatives was found missing in   housing related projects like Basic Services for the Urban Poor (BSUP) scheme and Integrated Housing and Slum Development Programme (IHDSP).
              Poor performance under Housing ( Courtesy: Niticentral.com) 
3.   Lack of capacity and expertise of local officials: Many of the projects specially related to SWM(Solid Waste Management), water supply and sanitation were implemented adopting latest technologies however these were not put to its maximum use only because either the local officials responsible for implementing the projects were professionally ill equipped due to lack of required knowledge or they were not professionally experienced enough and committed too .
4.      Non involvement of Administrators: May be sound awkward but it is also one of the reasons that most of the Administrators at Government level or Commissioners at ULB/ Corporations level were not fully involved in timely completion of projects . There role was limited to sanction the projects or at most completion of agreement with contactors. Most of them have left the completion of projects with lower level engineers.
5.    Lack of planning : Many of the projects especially those related to availability of land became victim of this factor. Most of the State Governments got the projects sanctioned without examining the issue of areas of land and its availability at the time of execution of project which became a serious factor later on causing delay and even partial closure of projects because of non availability of land.
6.   Adoption of technology without examining the local acceptance and ensuring the post project maintenance by ULBs.
7.        Corruption: One of the major reasons though not acknowledged ,was the corruption at all levels while implementing the projects. Right form selection of projects, preparation of Project report and selection of bidder / Contractor to making payment, prevailing corruption has affected  the completion of project or sub-standard completion of schemes.
8. Apathy of State Governments to  provide matching State share: The state governments were to bear a portion of the cost of the project depending upon the sector or size of the city. The general principle being ' smaller the ULB,  higher the govt support'. But in practice, the state governments conveniently avoided this commitment or simply put it on paper without releasing the money.
9.    No scope for Coordination among other related department ( Lack of Integrated approach ): All the programmes undertaken under JNNURM were not related to single department but were in fact the core areas of other sister departments like Panchayat Raj, health, Housing, IT, Women development, Education etc but while planning or during implementation there was no mechanism made available to ensure their cooperation and coordination . The irony was that even at Central Government level this coordination was found missing leave the State Government and District administration. This single line of implementation with lack of convergence also affected the success of the programme.
10.  Incapability of Small and medium towns to provide required financial resources and also difficulty to take up requisite reforms has also resulted into non completion of projects or delay in grounding of scheme. Apart from this in many of the States the share of ULBs which was supposed to be given by the ULBs only duly taking up necessary reforms meant for achieving self sufficiency of the ULB were not allowed to happen and the State Govt also bore the Share of ULBs thereby defeating the objective of financial stability /self sustainability. This has also deprived the ULBs of facing  the challenge of mobilizing resources . In many cases the sanctioned projects were  considered  as a free gift from the Government.
11.  Diversion of funds: In many of the ULBs the funds meant for sanctioned projects were diverted either due to non-starting of project or some time to make payments for other schemes or activities in the ULBs. Even in many of the States, the State Level Nodal Agency (SLNA) failed to follow the guidelines of the mission while releasing money to the implementing ULBs/ Govt departments under pressure from administrative / political quarters.
12.  Poor monitoring of the projects by ministry of Urban development: Though the ministry has introduced a web enabled programme for monitoring of various components of all 4 sub missions and also to ensure monitoring at regular interval to provide a helping hand for policy makers and senior managers at State and Central levels, this was failed miserably due to poor architecture and lack of initiative to continue and improve the monitoring programme.
13. Putting difficult targets or objectives under Reforms: Many of the reforms proposed under the mission were found to be unrealistic and completion of these reforms was made one of the criteria for release of balance funds. The best example of this is Property title registration which could not be achieved by any of the ULBs because of lack of support from political and bureaucratic quarters due to obvious reasons. Similarly the revision of building bye laws proposed for revision by 2011 was not implemented by ULBs. Finally the  "one size fits all" approach to reform  adopted under JNNURM-I,  witnessed  significant inter-state variations in completion of reforms and this has indirectly affected / delayed the release of balance installments of funds for different  projects.
14. Least concern of accountability and failure to win the confidence of Citizens: The concerned ULBs and para-statal agencies lacked the required will and also their accountability towards citizens to provide them various services.
15. Putting the cart before the horse : The other factor which can also be considered responsible for affecting the success of programme was non consideration of local needs and socio-political environments which are very diverse in a multiparty system like  India. Though the mission objectives were very high but many of the schemes/ projects envisaged under mission were imposed on the State Governments without properly examining the local conditions and needs/priorities.
16.  Delay in getting departmental permissions: In many of the   infrastructure projects and Under Ground Drainages (UGD) the delay from the other departments like railways ( for completing works near railway track / under railway  track ), National Highways ( for getting permission to work under their jurisdiction), Military organizations (works in  Military areas) etc caused considerable delay  affecting  the progress.
17.   Encroachment problem: One of the biggest problems to take up housing or other developmental works under UGD or UIDSSMT (like side drains, water supply line, BRTS route etc)   was of encroachment in the Cities/ Towns which not only hampered the progress but many times forced the Authorities to change the alignment or even cancel the project.

In nutshell we can say that though the  JNNURM programme was having ambitious objectives but failed to deliver  mainly due to mismatch among planning and expectations of people. It aimed at involving all the three tiers of govt, the central, state and local but the connecting thread found to be missing. Each of the stakeholders acted in their own silos and this not only delayed projected outcomes, but also wasted the resources. 
The new Government is likely to replace JNNURM with a  fresh  mandate to build 100 SMART cities based on latest technologies (GIS) and focus on infrastructure, better connectivity , better  governance  and safe environment.