Thursday, July 23, 2009

Report on water, a wake-up call for Karnataka

Report on water, a wake-up call for Karnataka
Report on water, a wake-up call for Karnataka
BS Reporter / Chennai/ Bangalore July 22, 2009, 0:34 IST

Access to water has improved in most parts of the state but a major concern has been the quality of water. Fluoride contamination above the 1.0 parts per million (ppm) government norm has been found in 60 per cent of the cases across the states with 27 of the 28 surveyed districts registering its presence. Nitrate contamination was found in 20 per cent of the samples. Typically, nitrate contamination is from fertiliser runoff and contamination of water supply with human excreta.

These were the findings of Ashwas — A Survey of Household Water and Sanitation, conducted by Arghyam, a Bangalore-based non-governmental organisation to ascertain the status of household water and sanitation from a citizen’s perspective.

Another alarming finding of the survey was that open defecation is rampant with 72 per cent people resorting to open defecation. The survey respondents said that it was a great inconvenience and listed financial constraints and lack of space as the main reason for not building a toilet.

The survey, held over one year, covered 17,200 households across 28 districts of Karnataka and culminated in a detailed report that presents findings from state and district levels.

On the occasion, Karnataka governor H R Bharadwaj, who released the report, said, “The government should accept the results and act accordingly. We have to launch a movement for clean drinking water and the best way to manage it is through the institutions of local self-governance which are the gram panchayats. We must support them and provide them the funding to do their job effectively.”

On the occasion, secretary of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj department, Karnataka, Ravi Kumar said the survey by an independent agency gives the government a different perspective - from the user’s point of view. “The report therefore cannot be brushed away and the government will act on it,” he added.

He said there are about 250,000 rural water supply schemes in the state but due to over-dependence on groundwater there are a lot of problems. About 20,000 habitations have poor water quality. Sanitation performance is unsatisfactory due to the gender gap. Although there is a great need among the women for toilets, the men are the decision-makers. There are also large regional disparities with North Karnataka being in very bad state compared to the rest of the state.


Vajpai [at] Prakriti Group said...

I would say that, it is among one of the unscientific surveys. As said, it covered 17,200 household across 28 districts of Karnataka India, covering 100 household from each gram panchayat, but, failed in correlating the evidences and in statistical analysis. It seems that, the survey team neither referred valid documents, guidelines, norms, etc. related to water and sanitation nor did it has basic understanding about rural water and sanitation issues, per se. As envisaged, this survey can’t be considered as citizen’s report card and an acceptable document to disseminate the findings, and make basis for planning purposes in water sanitation sector. It has been observed that, the study had not considered important aspects related to methodology, project processes and important norms in water sanitation guidelines. To highlight a few pertinent issues, a general analysis of the study has been done which is given in following section.
The study methodology is not scientifically correct, so are the evidences, for example: a.) In the study methodology mentioned that PPS (probability proportional to size) is used for selection of respondents, which not correct (it is used to select the primary sampling units), b.) how many households were covered and how they were selected is not clear, c.) there is no rationale for having such huge coverage for the survey. In the report, there is no base/total ‘N’ (number) given for any table or chart, where as none of the tables/charts reflect about the source of the data (house hold level or community level). The survey didn’t consider any project process, through which the available infrastructure for water and sanitation in a Panchayat had been developed; also, there is no mention about elements like-information education and communication [IEC] interventions, human resources development [HRD] initiatives and capacity building measures, etc. This survey did not consider the ‘voice and choice’ and ‘willingness’ of people during any project and the contribution of beneficiaries in asset creation.
It seems that, there is no understandings among ‘Arghyam’ team about community lead sanitation facilities and adequacy, rural sanitary marts (RSMs), basic understanding about ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ toilets. The actual status of toilets in schools and Anganwadi’s, and separate provisions for girls and boys has not been considered in this so called large survey. The survey didn’t analyzed and explored vital issues like ‘incentives’ to poor and ‘vulnerable’ communities in accessing and developing the water sanitation facilities. Also, household garbage and water disposal system, and accessing the risk related to water contamination due to them, had not been touched upon. The study emphasized that, WatSan service should be provided by the ‘Gram Panchayat’, which makes meager role of beneficiary.

Vajpai [at] Prakriti Group said...

Addition to previous: The survey didn’t consider people’s access to ‘safe water’ rather it relied on ‘good water’ and the households had been assumed owning a number of water ‘purifying’ techniques, rather getting ‘safe’ water through certain sustainable delivery mechanism. About the types of questions, for example, upon safe handling of water, there are no adequate options given in question itself, also, though the respondents were not mentioned initially about complaining on breakdown (of water supply) to government officials, but, it calculatedly focused on asking about the bribe taken by the government functionaries.

It is to be noted that, in the entire study there is no mention about ‘APL’ (Above Poverty Line) and ‘BPL’ (Below Poverty Line) population and the ‘incentive’ provision for Sanitation Facilities and accessibility for safe drinking water, however, the respondents were asked about ‘capital investment’ (?) they received from Government Project.

The study also reflects the basis understanding of the survey team about different technological options towards latrines / toilets, for example it mentioned ‘Water Seal’ and ‘Pour Flush’ as separate toilet types. There is missing link related to hand washing (by soap, ash and mud/soil) and most prevalent water borne diseases. It is to be noted that, in the whole study the only options (discussed with respondents) for water borne diseases were ‘dysentery’ and ‘chikungunya’. Among others, the illogical questions on water quality, invalid options in many important questions, evidence based facts, usage of school toilets by Gram Panchayat president/members, etc. are the flaws of this survey.