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Functioning of the Drinking Water Component of the Narmada Pipeline Project in Gujarat

The Narmada Pipeline project is claimed to be the largest drinking water scheme in the world. While the project is seen as a solution to the drinking water problem in the state, this study shows that it has not been able to ensure adequate water supply in a regular and dependable manner to the covered regions. The project is also financially non-viable. This paper raises basic questions about the usefulness of long distance pipelines for transferring water to distant places for drinking purposes. It shows that there is a need to look for workable alternatives that augment local resources.

SPECIAL ARTICLEEconomic & Political Weekly EPW march 1, 200851Functioning of the Drinking Water Component of the Narmada Pipeline Project in GujaratIndira Hirway, Subhrangsu GoswamiThe Narmada Pipeline project is claimed to be the largest drinking water scheme in the world. While the project is seen as a solution to the drinking water problem in the state, this study shows that it has not been able to ensure adequate water supply in a regular and dependable manner to the covered regions. The project is also financially non-viable. This paper raises basic questions about the usefulness of long distance pipelines for transferring water to distant places for drinking purposes. It shows that there is a need to look for workable alternatives that augment local resources. We would like to thank Manisha Banerjee, Kaliprosad Bose, Swati Bhattacharyya, Abhijit De, Debjani Dutta and Manabi Majumder for helping us in many ways. This paper is based on a larger study of ‘Civic Monitoring of the Narmada Based Pipeline Programme’ sponsored by Pravah (a network of NGOs and experts concerned with drinking water and sanitation in Gujarat) and IWMI-TATA project.Indira Hirway ( and Subhrangsu Goswami ( are with the Centre for Development Alternatives, Ahmedabad. The “Narmada Water Based Drinking Water Pipeline Project” (NP project) is perhaps the biggest drinking water projects in the world. TheNP project is part of the Sardar Sarovar project – an interstate level plan, on the river Narmada, covering Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. The Sardar Sarovar project claims that it has “social value” apart from irrigation and power benefits.The justification for the project lies in the fact that there has been severe depletion and degradation of water resources in Saurashtra, Kachchh, north Gujarat and parts of central Gujarat over the years, with the result that there are no local drinking water sources in these regions. Moreover, the small multi-village water supply schemes in these regions do not have adequate potable water supply, particularly in the summer months. Transfer of water from the Narmada river in the south of these areas, there-fore seen as the only solution for ensuring water supply to these regions. It is interesting to note that initially the Sardar Sarovar project did not have any component of drinking/domestic water supply. However, looking at the depletion and degrada-tion of water resources, it was decided in 1990-91 (Ninth Plan) to use water from the Narmada (i e, Sardar Sarovar) to provide dependablewater supply to 4,000 villages and 135 towns of the regions of Kachchh, Saurashtra and north Gujarat. With the increasing water crisis, the number increased to 8,215 villages and 135 towns in the late 1990s and to 9,633 villages and 135 townsin2005. That is, the project now covers more than 55 per cent of the villages and more than 65 per cent of the urban centres of the state [Government of Gujarat 2001; GWSSB 2003]. The nature of the project has changed radically after the drought of 2001, which is described as a watershed in the drink-ing water policy of the state. Instead of waiting for the Narmada canal water to reach the deprived regions and then using this water for drinking and domestic use, it was decided in 2001 to pump this water directly from the Narmada and bring it to Kanial and Pariej reservoirs for the purpose of distributing it through 2,700 km long pipelines to the villages and towns. The project is now known as the Narmada Pipeline (NP) project. The main ob-jectives of the project are (1) to supply adequate and safe drinking water to the areas suffering from severe shortage of water supply, (2) to feed the regional/multi-village water supply schemes, which are not providing adequate water supply due to failure of their sources, (3) to provide water supply to those regional schemes and individual (village) schemes which provide water of poor quality due to various reasons, (4) to supply potable water tothose towns and villages which have excess salinity,
SPECIAL ARTICLEmarch 1, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly52excess fluoride or excess nitrates in their water supply and (5) to reduce outmigration of people by ensuring drinking water and by promoting employment in the areas suffering from water shortages. TheNP project is expected to cover fully the seven districts of Saurashtra (Bhavnagar, Surendranagar, Amreli, Junagadh, Porbandar, Rajkot and Jamnagar) and Kachchh, and parts of the nine districts of mainland Gujarat, i e, Ahmedabad, Mehsana, Patan, Gandhinagar, Kheda, Sabarkantha, Banaskantha, Panch-mahals and Dahod. The whole project is handled mainly by three organisations: Gujarat Water Supply and Sewerage Board (GWSSB) is responsible for implementing the distribution net-work, Gujarat Water Infrastructure Limited (GWIL) is responsible for bulk transmission of water from the Narmada to the villages and towns through various pipelines, and Water and Sanitation Management Organisation (WASMO) is responsible for promoting water committees (‘pani samitis’) for local management of the water supply. The project claims to have some special features like financial sustainability, an improved operational system and institutional sustainability. Financial sustainability for the project is to be ensured by charging water rates to cover the cost of the project. The operation and maintenance (O&M) costs of the project will be about Rs 511.86 crore per year (at 2002 prices), of which Rs 339.26 crore are energy costs, Rs 64.21 crore are main-tenance costs and Rs 128.39 crore are energy and operational (E&O) costs. It has been decided to fix water charges to meet theO&M costs and to provide for meeting the capital expenses forfuturereplacementofthe system. The poor are to be subsi-dised by charging higher rates to others. As regards the operating system of theNPproject,new technology is being used for weld-ingthejointsofthe pipeline to reduce leakages. Valve men are hiredunderprivate contractors for operating valves for the dis-tribution of water and for taking care of small repairs. Valve men are also responsible for purifying the water at the village level, for measuring residual chlorine at the household level and for storage of chlorine/gypsum. There are filter plants to ensure quality of water supply. Institutional sustainability is achieved by setting up a pani samiti in each village.The entire project was originally meant to be completed by the end of the Tenth Plan. This has not happened. The resources for theproject were expected to come from the state government’s ownresources under the plan and from borrowings from people, financial institutions and external agencies. The project, however currently suffers from a shortage of funds. This paper is based on our study of the working of the project at the ground level. It attempts to map the coverage of water sup-ply and quality of the service provided under the project. The study was conducted for PRAVAH, a network of NGOs and experts set up in Gujarat around drinking water and sanitation, in collaboration withITP (IWMI TATA Project).1 The study, which is also a concurrent monitoring of the project, in addition to provid-ing feedback to implementers and policymakers, aims at generat-ing awareness among people and their organisations about the dimensions of the drinking water problem at the village level. The study has also been used for policy advocacy.2This is a census study that included all the villages covered under the NP project when the study was conducted. Two schedules were designed to collect the relevant information: Schedule 1was for collecting information on the overall status of water supply in the village while Schedule 2 was designed to collect data on the status of Narmada water in the villages. Schedule 2 was canvassed four times in the year to capture seasonal variations in the situation. In-depth case studies of the differenttypologies of villages were also conducted to under-stand the dynamics of the water supply and water distribution at the village level. The implementation of the project started with Saurashtra, Kachchh and Ahmedabad districts. Of the total target of 9,633 villages, 1,224 villages were covered under the project when the study started. Our study covered 1,188 villages, i e, 97.1 per cent of the covered villages. In January 2007 the project covered 2,044 villages, 21.2 per cent of the target. 1 Status of Drinking Water in Narmada VillagesThe government of Gujarat decided to cover all the villages of Saurashtra and Kachchh, and parts of north and central Gujarat under this pipeline scheme on the assumption that all these vil-lages suffer from shortage of potable water supply, at least in the summer months and/or in drought years and they lack adequate local sources. Was this assumption correct? Table 2 indicates that wells and bore wells are the most common local sources. About 66 per cent of the villages covered under the Narmada project use well/bore well water, and 32 per cent villages use water from local irrigation wells. All the Narmada villages have local source of water supply, with many villages having more than one local source. This of course does not mean Table 1: Villages to be Covered As Per the Revised Master Plan and the Actual Coverage(2005)Sr No District No of Villages Actual Number of Percentage Villages Covered Covered in Revised Villages Covered of Villages under Study Master Plan in 2004-05 Covered 1 Ahmedabad 170 134 71.2 972 Amreli 613 248 38.5 2513 Bhavnagar 795 312 35.3 2764 Jamnagar 751 59 4.9 515 Junagadh 1,035 41 6.0 626 Kachchh 645 275 24.7 1847 Rajkot 856 219 26.4 267 Total 4,865 1,224 23.1 1,188Source: GWSSB 2001.Table 2: Non-Narmada Sources of Water Supply in Narmada Project Villages(in %)District Narmada Percentage of Villages Using Following Local Sources Villages Juth Well/ Bore/ Village Irrigation Tanker RRWHS ReportedPipelineandPumpPondWell Ahmedabad 938.6 25.815.11.1 0 18.3Amreli 23370.490.117.642.9628.8Bhavnagar 22128.573.317.639.814.561.1Jamnagar 1957.947.421.126.326.30Junagadh 528388.758831.90Kachchh 113 4427.628.46.9 10.316.4Rajkot 21522.868.82025.17.917.7Total 946 41.166.522.831.68.5 29.1(1) Out of 1,188 villages, only 946 villages have received Narmada water. (2) RRWHS: Rural Rainwater Harvesting StructuresSource: Primary Survey 2005.
SPECIAL ARTICLEEconomic & Political Weekly EPW march 1, 200853that local sources are always adequate to meet the local demand [Hirway and Goswami 2006]. Small multi-village schemes (Juth Yojana) also are an impor-tant source of water supply, as 41 per cent of the villages use this water. Narmada water is sent through pipelines of these schemes when their sources of water dry up. It is important to note that roof water collection tanks (RRWHS) are emerging as a source of water supply in several villages, particularly in Rajkot, Bhavnagar and Amreli districts. When the households in villages were asked to rank their problems, shortage of drinking water in the summer months turned out to be the most important one, with 42 per cent villages identifyingthis as their main problem. This percentage varies from57inRajkot to 19 in Jamnagar, where 35 per cent villages have a drinking water problem throughout the year and another 25 per cent villages have a problem of excessive fluoride. Overall, 60 per cent of the villages suffer from shortage of water supply either in the summer months or throughout the year!The worst hit blocks (i e, talukas) are located in Ahmedabad, Amreli, Bhavnagar,Jamnagar and Kachchh districts. About 22 per cent of the villages find that regional pipeline schemes, i e, the schemes based on transfer of water supply from a distance, do not work well. The reasons given are irregular sup-ply of electricity, poor maintenance of pipelines and deliberate breakages and theft of water. About 14 per cent of the villages have complaints about the quality of water, i e, excess fluoride and excessive hardness; while more than one-fifth of the villages find that the wells are getting dry day by day. 1.1 Sources of Water Supply in the Past Some significant changes have taken place in the relative shares of the different sources of drinking water during the past 20 years. To start with, the importance of groundwater has declined as a source of drinking water. About 81 per cent of the villages used local wells and bore wells as a source 20 years ago. This percentage declined to 78.6 per cent 10 years ago and to 66.1 per cent at present. Similarly, the use of pond water also has declined from 38.4 per cent (villages) 20 years ago to 33.1 per cent 10 years ago and to 22 per cent at present. It is important to note that at present 66 per cent of the villages use groundwater (wells/bore wells) and 22 per cent use pond water to satisfy at least part of their demand for drinking water. Also, the percentage of villages using rainwater harvesting has increased from 2.2 per cent 20 years ago to 20.8 per cent at present. There is definitely a possi-bility of building on this development.Another important change is a big jump in the dependence on transfer of water from surplus to deficit regions. The percentage of such villages has increased from less than 10 per cent 20 years ago to 34 per cent today. The importance of irrigation wells as a source of drinking water has also increased mainly because the village wells and bore wells used for drinking are drying up or the quality of their water is degrading. Their share has increased from 18 per cent 20 years ago to 31.8 per cent at present. The use of canal water has remained more or less the same. The changing shares of water supply basically indicate two points: declining role of local ground (and surface) water and increasing dependence on transfer of water from surplus to deficit regions. The NP project is a part of this development.Local sources of water supply, however, are not really well maintained. This is either because groundwater has dried up due to overdrafting in agriculture, or because the quality of water has deteriorated due to neglect/overdrafting or because there is no institution to pay attention to their maintenance and operation. In the villages under study, 40 per cent of the ponds, 45 per cent of the wells, 30 per cent of the bore wells, 40 per cent of the hand-pumps and 20 per cent of the tube wells are not in working condi-tion. Interestingly, 10 per cent of the newly constructed roof wa-ter-harvesting structures are also not in working condition. This calls for a careful investigation. In short, a significant number of local sources are still in work-ing condition and many more can be revived. The sources used only for washing and cleaning can also be revived for drinking water. When asked about this, 73.7 per cent of the villages re-ported that they can strengthen local water if adequate support is provided for developing local resources. The response, however, varies widely from block to block, depending on the status of traditional sources and the status of panchayats. However, all villages believe that if enough efforts are made, they can definitely augment some additional water supply for their villages. 2 Status of Narmada Water SupplyThe percentage of the “officially covered” villages getting Narmada water was 72 in the first round and 82 in the last round of the survey. Our study covers the villages that actually received Narmada water. 2.1 Regularity of Water Supply According to the guidelines all villages covered under the Narmada project are expected to receive water every dayat the rate of70 litres per person per day (lpcd). Our investigation, however, Table 4: Regularity in Water Supply (1st and 4th Rounds) Districts Percentage of Villages That Received Narmada Water during the Last Three Months (in Days): Frequency Distribution by Days Received May to July 2004 February-April 2005 1 to 29 30 to 59 60 to 89 90 1 to 29 30 to 59 60 to 89 90Ahmedabad 15.921.451.4 11.49.440.645.84.2Amreli 34.649.69.66.344.449.85.30.4Bhavnagar 19.521.34316.314.723.157.64.6Jamnagar 0 64.335.7 0 0 14.385.7 0Junagadh 4.746.525.623.30553510Rajkot 18.454.* 39.916.636.47.12038.121.920Total 21.338.42911.423.139.534.33.1Source: Primary Survey 2005; data refer to three months prior to survey.Table 3: Changing Shares of Drinking Water Sources during Past 20 YearsDuration Number of Villages Using Following Water Sources Groundwater Pondwater Rainwater RWSS Irrigation Water Canal WaterTwenty years back 911 431 25 110 202 42 (81.2)(38.4)(2.2) (9.8) (18.0) (3.7)Ten years back 882 371 51 290 228 46 (78.6) (33.1)(4.5) (25.8)(20.3)(4.1)In recent years 730 359 233 380 245 42 (66.1)(22.0) (20.8)(33.9)(31.8)(3.7)Figures in bracket indicate percentage.Source: Primary Survey 2005.
SPECIAL ARTICLEmarch 1, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly54showed that the percentage of villages receiving daily water supply during the three months before the survey was 11.4 in the first round and only 3.1 in the last round. This percentage was the highest (20 per cent) in Kachchh and lowest (0 per cent) in Jamnagar district, one of the most problematic districts in the state. The data on the regularity of Narmada water supply during the last month (the reference month) again show that 5 per cent of the villages received Narmada water daily, 32 per cent vil-lages received it for more than 20 days and 60 per cent villages receivedit for less than 20 days. It may be argued that Narmada water was not given to the villages because alternative sources of water were available. However, this argument does not hold good when one sees that Narmada water is given in a highly irregular manner. 2.2 Timing and Duration of Water SupplyAccording to the norms, each village is expected to get water at the rate of 70 lpcd, i e, 15 liters for cattleand55litresforpeople. Based on the size of the population, water is released through the main head works. Once this supply is released, the norms are said to be fulfilled. The hours of water supply depend on the force/pressure of water supply. If the pressure is low, it may take more time to deliver the fixed quota and vice versa. Since there are no water meters installed in villages, it is diffi-cult to assess the adequacy of water supply. Our discussion with officials revealed that given the pressure of water supply, a vil-lage of 500 people needs two hours of water supply to meet its needs for a day. However, only 30 per cent of villages were ob-served to receive water for two or more than two hours a day (that is, when they receive water) in the first round, though all villages are above 500 population. This percentage increased to 65 per cent in the last round. This could have been a positive de-velopment if the number of days of regular water supply had also increased, which did not happen. 2.3 Distribution of Narmada WaterThere are two kinds of distribution problems of Narmada water: problems of distributing water equitably to all the villages covered, and problems of distributing water to different households with-in a village. Both the problems are observed to be acute at the field level. It has not been possible for the authorities to provide adequate water supply to all villages, because of frequent breakages and leakages in the inter village pipelines arising from (1) technical problems, such as weak joints, uneven pressure and design prob-lems, (2) poor maintenance of pipelines, failure of pumping stations or of main head works, electricity-failure, etc, and (3) deliberate breakages and theft of water by farmers, cowherds and others. All the three problems together have affected the regularity and adequacy of water supply in almost all Narmada villages. In addition, there are problems relating to distribution of Narmada water within a village. Broadly, there are three ways in which Narmada water is distributed within a village: Through individual connections, through common stand posts or through a common sump (i e, one common place where water is released). Our investigation shows that the number of households having individual connections for Narmada water was 61 per cent in the first round of monitoring and 67 per cent in the last round of monitoring. However, households having individual connections do not always get (adequate) water supply due to low pressure of water. There is therefore an increase in the number of households using common stand posts and common sumps, from 35 per cent to 52.5 per cent, and 11 per cent to 32 per cent respectively during the first and the last round. At times, some well to do households were found using pumps, of course illegally, to pull water result-ing in no or poor supply in the rest of the neighbourhoods. In the villages where the village panchayat is responsible for distribution of water, they are expected to put up pipelines, along with valves at different locations in a way that high and low lying areas receive water regularly. Water is then to be provided through household connections or through stand posts. In reality, the distribution of water within a village is usually gravity-based, which frequently deprives high lying areas of adequate water supply. Valves to ensure equitable distribution of water are either not in place, or are out of order or are not operated. Also, the poorer areas that cannot afford household connections are not given an adequate number of stand posts, which are also fre-quently not maintained well. This is reflected in the distance they travel to fetch water. The norms that nobody should walk for more than 150 m to collect water and that there should be one water tap per 100 persons, are frequently violated in the case of the wards/‘falias’ where scheduled castes and other backward castes live. Our survey shows that these households have to travel more than 500 metres for Narmada water, and the number of such households has increased during the survey period, from 1.3 per cent to 3 per cent. Again, the percentage of households get-ting water within 100 metres has declined from 72.8 in the first round to 66 in the last round. When (1) the water is released byGWSSB only in one place in a village, i e, in a sump or a storage tank and there is no internal distribution, and (2) when there are breakages or leakages in the inter village pipelines (which is fairly frequent), people have to journey to collect the water. Household water taps are usually makeshift arrangements that use plastic tubes and flimsy taps. The breakages and leakages of these connections result in wastage of water as well as contami-nation. Water taps on the stand posts frequently do not have taps that can be closed, are frequently broken or stolen, and ‘havadas’ for animals are leaking and invariably dirty. The villages with only one outlet of water are invariably overcrowded, dirty and full of water puddles around the place.3 In short, it has not been possible for authorities to provide Nar-mada water to villages in a way that water supply is adequate, regular and dependable. The problems are regarding the work-ing of the project between as well as within the villages. 2.4 Failure of Long Distance Pipeline Schemes The long distance pipeline scheme under which water is trans-ported through pipelines has several built-in-weaknesses, which arise from the project concept and design on the one hand and the socio-cultural and administrative capabilities in the state on the other. To start with, the pipeline distribution network needs
SPECIAL ARTICLEEconomic & Political Weekly EPW march 1, 200855to have a “star pattern” and not the “tree pattern”. Under the star pattern each village is directly linked by a main pipeline to the source reservoir or the pumping station. This ensures a continu-ous flow of water. Under the tree pattern, the water source is at one end and villages are connected in a series to distribution pipelines, with a declining pressure. One breakage or obstacle in the pipeline can stop the entire flow of water under this pattern. Thetree pattern, however, is cheaper (almost half the cost per unit), and is therefore preferred by the authorities in Gujarat [Hirway and Lodhia 2005]. The net result is that (1) the tail end villages in the project are invariably left out of regular water supply, and (2) small obstacles in the pipeline prevent flow of water in all the following villages. In other words, the use of the tree pattern under the project has built in limitations leading to irregular and non-dependable water supply. Another common weakness in long distance pipeline is regarding the quality of pipelines and the quality of joints. Though good quality pipelines (such as mild steel pipes, PVC pipes and high density polyethylene pipes) are used in the main pipelines un-der the project, the quality is very poor in the rest of the pipe-lines. Similarly, the joints are of poor quality in non-main lines. This results in frequent breakages and leakages disrupting the flow of water supply.4 In addition to the above, maintenance of such long pipelines (2,700 km of main lines and almost the same of other types) is a Herculean task, as it is not easy to ensure equal pressure of water supply, cleanliness of pipelines from under growth and efficient maintenance of such long pipelines. The O&M work has been entrusted to private contractors who appoint linemen to do the job. The duties of a lineman are to operate the valve, maintain the pipeline and clean the tank periodically, report breakages/leakages and manage its repair, observe the quality of water and apply chlorine or any such material if water is found to be con-taminated and support the pani samiti/village panchayat in managing the Narmada water supply. However, it is observed that contractors are always keen to reduce their costs by under-staffing, spending minimum amounts on regularO&M, using inferior parts and delaying repairs. Our discussion with a number of linemen revealed that they are encouraged to reduce their costs. The net result is that there are frequent breakages and leakages in pipelines resulting in interruptions inwatersupply, loss of expensive Narmada water and contami-nation of water supply. There is no adequate supervision of the contractors by the GWSSB and of linemen by contractors. (It is interesting that the contractors we met were all relatives of the GWSSB staff in the local office.) The alliance of linemen and contractors with the GWSSB local offices has sometimes resulted in manipulation of data on the availability of drinking water.5 Ensuring continuous supply of electricity, maintenance of a large number of storages, etc, also are not easy problems. And lastly, policing these long pipelines and protecting them from deliberate breakages, leakages and from theft is also a formidable task in water-starved regions. All those who can manage to siphon off water areboundtodo so to serve their vested interests. There are in-numerable instances when farmers, cowherds, or powerful groups have broken the pipeline to divert water to serve their personal interests. 3 Narmada Water at the Village LevelIt is claimed that theNP project has several unique features, which make it better than other regional schemes: (1) it is ex-pected to have volumetric control of water supply to ensure 70 lpcd water supply to all, (2) the water is to be managed locally by a pani samiti, which will also represent women and weaker sections, (3) water is to be distributed equitably within the vil-lage among different areas and different socio-economic groups, (4) the project will be financially viable, asO&M cost of the project will come from water charges that people will pay, and (5) the project aims to ensure potable water to all. How far are these features translated in to practise? 3.1 PaniSamiti/WaterCommitteeThe pani samiti (water committee) is a key village level organisa-tion that is expected to manage water and sanitation at the village level. According to the state government rule (GR) in September 2002, each village is expected to set up a pani samiti to manage drinking water and sanitation locally. The major functions of a pani samiti include (1) test local sources of water supply and develop potable sources, with the help of government officials, (2) take complete care of O&M of the water system in the village, (3) fix water charges to meet the costs, in consultation with the gram sabha, and recover charges, (4) maintain cleanliness of water sources to ensure clean and potable water to all, including weaker sections, and (5) maintain sanitation and public hygiene in the village. Our field study showed that pani samitis were set up only in 340 villages out of the total of 1,122 (30 per cent). The coverage is highly uneven across the different districts (Table 5). Bhavnagar, Amreli and Kachchh districts are relatively better covered by pani samitis, while Ahmedabad, Junagadh and Rajkot are poorly covered. Ghogha (Bhavnagar district) has pani samitis in more than 80 per cent villages, while several blocks of Junagadh have no pani samiti. Though it is mandatory to have a minimum of three women members in a pani samiti, the field level data show that women constitute less than one-fourth of the total membership, and a few blocks do not have any women on their pani samiti.Many of the pani samitis are only on paper. Since setting up of a pani samiti is mandatory, it is very common for a ‘sarpanch’ to report that there is a pani samiti in the village, but a careful investigation Table 5: Pani Samitis in Narmada Project VillagesDistricts Villages Number of Pani Samitis Total Number Women Surveyed Nos of % of Total of Members Number (%) VillagesVillages Ahmedabad 121 9 7.4 61 19 31.2Amreli 236 9038.1634 146 23.0Bhavnagar 281 92 32.7 848 217 25.6Jamnagar 37 14 37.81143934.2Junagadh 62 12 19.4 491224.5Kachchh 159 59 37.1608 136 22.4Rajkot 226 6428.3484115 23.8Total 1,122 340 30.32,798 684 24.5Source: Primary Survey 2004-05.
SPECIAL ARTICLEmarch 1, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly56revealed that these samitis were only on paper.6 In our first round, 17 per cent of the villages with a pani samiti reported that their samitis had not met even once in the previous three months. The share of these defunct samitis increased to 45 per cent in the last round. It appears that the meetings of pani samitis are relatively more regular in the blocks where NGOs are active and where WASMO has promoted pani samitis in collaboration withNGOs. 7 The issues discussed in pani samitis are mostly related to pay-ment of water charges and distribution of water within the village.Our in-depth case studies revealed that even the so-called active pani samitis were unable to carry out all the important functions of a samiti. For example, the active samiti in Dudhai,8 has not been able to recover water charges. We were told that only 50 per cent of the households pay water charges. The pani samiti also has not been able to develop local water sources, which are in plenty in the village. In short, pani samitis have limited spread and are not active enough to manage water supply locally. If internal distribution of water, operation and mainte-nance of water supply, fixing and collecting water charges and ensuring good quality of water supply are to be undertaken by the village pani samiti, a lot mere is to be done. On the other hand, big and medium farmers, who have good irrigation facilities, frequently take away the lion’s share of the total water supply. Though conceptually speaking, ground water belongs to the entire village; those with access to wells and tube wells corner a highly disproportionate share of the water supply. They do not have to worry about the status of the Narmada water.9 These farmers are neither interested in maintaining Narmada pipelines nor are they interested in developing local sources for drinking and domestic use. Majority of the population in these villages is left at the mercy of these farmers. 3.2 Water Testing and Quality of Water SupplyOne advantage of the Narmada project, as claimed by authori-ties, is that it will provide potable water to people. The system organised for the purpose includes setting up of 101 treatment plants at different levels to treat Narmada water before it is trans-ported to villages in the pipeline networks. Treatment is also to be given at the village level depending on the need. The valve man/lineman is responsible for this. Water testing and monitoring the quality of water supply are important components for ensuring potable quality of the water supply. Water testing is usually done by the GWSSB in water testing laboratories, located in regional offices of GWSSB. Some-times village panchayats also organise water testing. According to our field survey, only 18 per cent of the villages in 25 talukas out of the total 38 talukas reported water testing. This does not necessarily mean that water tests are not conducted, it only means that the sarpanch and pani samiti members are not aware of the water testing done. When tests are conducted by GWSSB laboratories, the results are not conveyed to the concerned panchayats. Only in five village panchayats the results are dis-played and only three village panchayats (Bhavnagar district) reported that they also conduct water tests to know the quality of their water. Interestingly, the official data revealed that even water from the NPP is not always potable. Only three treatment plants have started working so far. Many villages therefore receive raw Narmada water. Again, treatment of water at the village level is the responsibility of the valve man/lineman, but he is rarely able to perform this duty, as he neither has time nor the required equipments and material to do this work. He does not even have access to information on quality of water. He installs the chlorination plant and uses chlorine or any such material only when he is instructed to do so, which is very rare.It appears that maintaining good water quality in a large pipe-line scheme requires good operation and maintenance of the dis-tribution system to prevent contamination from breakages and leakages as well as good local systems of testing and taking immedi-ate actions. Somehow this seems to be difficult under the project. The “common” people, however, are happy with the quality of Narmada water, as the water looks clear, does not stink and tastes good. More than 90 per cent of the wards therefore reported that Narmada water is of good quality. 3.3 Water Charges, Recovery and Financial ViabilityAn important feature of the Narmada project is that it will charge for water in a way that O&M costs as well as capital costs will be recovered from the users. Is this feature implemented in reality?A village covered under the Narmada project has to charge for two sets ofO&M costs: the cost of bringing Narmada water to the village and the cost of distributing the water within the village. The charges for the former cost will have to be paid to GWSSB, while the charges for the latter costs will have to be retained by the panchayat to manage distribution of water within the village. Our investigation revealed that most villages charge the present GWSSB flat rate, i e, Rs 14 per person per year. In addition, they also charge for (1) household connection (fixed cost) and (2) for recurring cost of water management. The installation cost of household connection varies between Rs 100 to Rs 250 per house-hold. The charges of recurring costs appear to be varying from Rs 100 to Rs 25 per year per household.Most village panchayats are reluctant to give any amount to theGWSSB, unless they are forced to do so. This is because they themselves need funds for managing water supply within the vil-lage. The villages without any intra village distribution system also are reluctant to pay the collected amount to the GWSSB on the ground that “water should be free to all”. As a result, the re-covery of charges by theGWSSB is very poor, the lowest being in Kachchh (10.7 per cent) and highest in Junagadh district (71.4 per cent) followed by Bhavnagar (44.5 per cent). Interestingly, the recovery is zero in several villages in Kachchh. On an average Table 6: Recovery of Water Charges under Narmada Project(in Rs) Amount Charged, Collected and Paid by Reported Villages during 2004-05 District ChargedbyPanchayatPanchayatPercentagePercentage GWSSB Collected from Paid Collection by Payment to VillagerstoGWSSBPanchayatGWSSBAmreli 16,11,0907,70,5905,52,090 47.8 34.3Bhavnagar 40,25,664 19,13,300 17,90,400 47.5 44.5Junagadh 5,18,137 3,70,1373,70,137 71.4 71.4Kachchh 5,89,8992,28,490 63,230 38.7 10.7Rajkot 5,29,7001,36,0001,36,00025.725.7Total 72,74,49034,18,51729,11,85747.040.0Source: Primary Survey 2004-05.


SPECIAL ARTICLEmarch 1, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly58available regularly. Several regional offices of GWSSB reported that it is not possible for them to ensure a fixed quantity of water supply during a fixed period, when they have no control over the regularity of supply of electricity. Financial non-viability is another major weak point of the project. This non-viability has made the project a big drain on the state economy. It has also slowed down the progress of the project. The target of completing the project by the end of the Tenth Five-Year Plan (by 2007) has not been met with. The weak institutional set-up at the village level is another major constraint. Though the village panchayat or pani samiti is expected to en-sure good management of the project at the village level, they are not yet equipped to take up these responsibilities. WASMO, an innovative institution set up by the government of Gujarat for the purpose of promoting community-based water and sanitation management, has contributed considerably by taking up villages covered under the NP project with the agenda of setting up strong local institutions. A large number of NGOs have also set up strong community organisations in these villages to manage village level working of the project. However, as seen earlier, a lot is still to be done to strengthen this critical aspect of the NP project.And lastly, increasing dependence on regional schemes in general, and the NP projectin particular, has resulted in the neglect of local water resources. The local sources have either disappeared, degraded, are neglected or are used only for wash-ingandcleaning in most villages covered under theNP project.Thishascreatedseveral problems: (1) the unit price of water used in the village has gone up as outside water, and particularly Narmada water is expensive. The O&M cost of this water is much more than what villagers can afford, (2) the neglect of local sources has also resulted in the neglect of local systems/conven-tions that took care of maintenance and repair of local sources, and has brought ina culture of dependence on outsiders for a basic necessity like water, and (3) loss of local sources has reduced thecontroloflocal population on drinking water resources. As against this, the development of local resources through rainwater harvesting can also contribute towards regeneration of land and water resources in a village that can in turn regenerate the ecology as well as the economy of the village. By neglecting regeneration of the local sources, the project has impacted ad-versely the village ecology and the village economy. 4.1 A Way ForwardBefore we make any recommendations for the future, it is impor-tant to note that the project has so far covered only 2,044 villages out of the total of 9,633 villages to be covered. That is, only one-fifth of the villages have been covered so far. In the case of urban areas, 58 out of the total 131 have been covered, implying 44 per cent coverage so far. An important implication of this is that it is feasible to introduce mid-course corrections in the project. An important question in this context is: Is the Narmada project a back up or a mainstay of the drinking water policy in the state? It is argued officially that the Narmada project is a back up project, in the sense that it provides water when local sources are
SPECIAL ARTICLEEconomic & Political Weekly EPW march 1, 200859not available. However, if this is the case, (1) Narmada water should be provided only during the summer months, i e, for three to four months, as most villages do have local sources for the rest of the year, or (2) Narmada water should stop during the four monsoon months when rain water is available and when wells and tanks are recharged, or (3) The NP project should provide 40 lpcd to all throughout the year, and if a village wants to consume more water, it should augment its own resources. However, none ofthese is happening and there is nothing in the project that provides incentives for augmentation and dependence on local resources. Our study has shown that Narmada water is “available” to covered villages throughout the year and there is no clear demarcation in terms of months. One cannot discern any clear policy or programme that encourages augmentation of local water sources in Narmada villages. A look at the state drinking water programmes in the Tenth Plan also makes it clear that the state government has decided to depend on transfer of water from surplus to deficit regions through long distance pipelines as the main solution to the drinking water problem in the state. There is an urgent need to reverse this policy. There is a need to treat local resources as the main source and depend on trans-fer of water only when local sources are not adequate to meet the local demand. It is important therefore that now onwards a village should be covered under the Narmada project only on the condition that it develops its local resources. An investigation should be organised for each village, in collaboration with local people and with the help of an engineer, to identify and determine the potential of local sources. Narmada pipelines should enter the village only if necessary and after or along with a plan of action for development of local resources. Financial incentives, such as capital loans and subsidies, or grants should be organised for villages that develop and use their own resources. The higher the share of local water sources, the higher should be the finan-cial incentives. Again, Narmada water should be provided at the price that covers its O&M costs. The higher charges will also act as an incentive for developing cheap local resources. In short, Narmada water, which is expensive, should be treated as a backup. This raises an important question: Is it necessary to invest Rs 8,000 crore (or more at the current prices) on pipelines, pump-ing stations, treatment plants, etc, in setting up the NP project if its water is to be used three to four months a year? Also, will it be technically feasible to maintain empty pipelines for six to ten months a year? Will they break or be damaged due to the lack of pressure of water? These questions call for a major revision in the project.It is now widely accepted that a village with an annual average rainfall of 500 mm and more is capable of augmenting dependa-ble drinking water supply for its population in five to seven years. It is to be recognised that development of local water resources can ensure drinking water only if (1) water augmentation is carried out on a large scale, and at suitable locations, and (2) it is carried out for a number of years, say three to seven years. There is perhaps no need to make huge investments under the Narmada project in these villages. If required, other alternatives like de-salination, recycling, defluoridation, etc, or even water tankers could be tried out, as they may prove to be less expensive and more reliable than Narmada pipeline water.In order to improve the working of the Narmada project, one can make two sets of recommendations: Improvement in the technological component of the project by (1) using a star pattern network for water distribution in the entire project, (2) replacing all old pipelines by improved quality of pipelines and joints, (3) adopting modernO&M systems, and (4) developing huge stor-age facilities to ensure continuous water supply even when electricity fails. In the institutional field one can recommend a quantum jump in the capabilities of the official staff for a strong supervision and monitoring of the project. In the final analysis, the project has raised basic questions about the validity of long distance pipelines for transferring water to distant places. The study has recommended mid-course corrections that look for workable alternatives. Notes 1 This monitoring system was participatory, as it involved a number of NGOs and CBOs in the proc-ess of monitoring. It was also an exercise of ca-pacity building and empowerment of people. 2 The main findings of the study were presented and discussed with policymakers and implement-ers in the state. 3 Our case studies of Nani Paliad and Khambhala, where there is only one stand post in the village, there are long queues of pots and women are al-ways fighting to get access to the water 4 Our discussions with some officials of the project revealed that RCC cement pipes and AC (Asbestos Cement) pipes are used in non-main lines. 5 At the GWSSB office at Botad taluka we saw that Nani Paliad, which suffers from acute shortage of drinking water, was reported as “receiving 1,35,000 litres of water every day from 10 am to 12 pm without a single break!”. When we ques-tioned the concerned officers about this, he said he had no idea how it happened.6 For example, in Mevasa and Khambhala the husbands of the respective woman sarpanchs manage the show. Though they reported that there was a pani samiti in these villages, our investigation revealed that there was no pani samiti. The same was the case with Loliya, Nani Paliad and Kunjisar. 7 The examples are Talala, where 50 per cent pani samitis met once in a month and Ghogha where 40 per cent pani samitis met twice in the last three months. Bhavnagar, Dhandhuka, Dholka, Bhuj and Rapar also reported similar experiences. 8 The pani samiti has 14 members and three of them are women. The samiti meets every month. A women member of the pani samiti told us that the samiti is aware about the problem of disposal of used water and that they were planning a facility for disposal of used water in the village.9 For example, Khambala’s connecting pipeline broke two months ago, but farmers did not take any interest, with the result that the majority of the population is left at the mercy of the farmers with wells/tubewells10 During our visit to the GWSSB at the Botad taluka, we were told that 50 litres of water supply flows from one tap in one minute. This means that one stand post, with six taps provides 18,000 litres of water per hour and 36,000 litres of water per two hours. This water will be enough for a village with 510 persons (70 lpcd) and for 900 persons (40 lpcd). By these standards many of the villages which receive water even for two hours every day (as seen earlier, the number of such villages is not large) do not get adequate water supply. And this is on the assumption that water supply is provided every day and regularly for two hours a day.ReferencesGovernment of Gujarat (2001): ‘Gujarat State: Approach and Action Plan to Mitigate Drinking Water Scar-city’, Water Supply Department, Gandhinagar. GWSSB (2003): ‘Sardar Sarovar Canal Based Drink-ing Water Supply Master Plan’, Gujarat Water Supply and Sewerage Board, Gandhinagar. Hirway, Indira and Shital Lodhia (2005): ‘Status of Drinking Water in Gujarat: Towards a Sustainable Approach’, WTO, India Office.Hirway and Subhrangsu Goswami (2006): ‘Citizens Monitoring of Narmada Canal Based Pipeline Drinking Water Supply’, Pravah, Ahmedabad. Joshi, M B (2007): ‘Cost Efficiency of Narmada Water’, paper presented at the conference on Water Re-sources Management for a Better Tomorrow, or-ganised by IWMI, TATA, IWRS, Water Management Forum, Saket and GIDR, Ahmedabad, January.

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