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How Community Involvement Can Change Dynamics of Rural Water Management

All it needs is a little planning, a little initiative from the government and communities, and a strong resolve.

News18.com | Updated: December 28, 2019, 6:28 PM IST
While India stares at a severe water crisis which is rapidly spreading in the urban areas, it is the rural sector where lives and livelihoods of millions have been most affected. Prima facie it may appear to be a case of mismanagement of water resources, but the roots of the problem go much deeper.

The density of population determines the allocation of water since the cost of water in urban areas will be significantly low due to the high number of people it is being delivered to. When it comes to rural areas, the cost incurred is more and thus it all becomes a vicious cycle from there on. How can this be stopped?  By creating an environment where these issues are addressed, by creating a strategy that ensures proper management of the resources, and most importantly, by coming up with a strategy where the community is involved right from the start. A case study in point is the Red River Delta Rural Water Supply and Sanitation project (RRDRWASS) that changed the face of rural Vietnam districts.

Based on how it worked over there, community involvement is key to a successful endeavour in this direction. Not only is their participation pivotal, giving them a literal stake in the whole process works wonders. In this project, the water supply schemes were established under innovative enterprises, in which the community had a 10 per cent stake. What this does is get the community involved in the process by giving them ownership, which gives birth to a level of commitment and passion to work together. They actively take part in management, constructions, operation as well as maintenance of the services.

Transparency of the process plays a huge role as well. When people know what is happening with their issues, their attitude changes, leading to an improved process. Since they worked on it and also knew how things worked, users at the end of the day reported a much higher level of satisfaction with the improved quality of water in the four provinces of Vietnam. As the community developed a strong sense of accountability, it also took initiative in paying tariffs in order to cover the scheme and process costs.

At the end of the project, which lasted for 10 years, more than a million residents got access to clean water. This goes to show the rural water situation in India can also be transformed. All it needs is a little planning, a little initiative from the government and communities, and a strong resolve.

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