Ranking Gujarat No 1 in Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) for the second successive year, the Modi government’s powerful policy-making body, Niti Aayog, appears to have left no stone unturned in order to “prove” how it has reached this drastic conclusion. One of the greatest “successes” it cites in this respect is –believe it or not– Gujarat has “achieved” a 100% score in the ‘rural drinking water’ theme of the Water Index.
Sourcing on a site run by the Gujarat government, www.gujaratindia.com, instead of assessing things independently, which is what a policy-making body should ideally do, the Niti Aayog report, released this month, claims that this 100% score has been made possible because the state government “provides clean water to all of its ~35 million rural residents.” Giving credit for this to Gujarat’s rural water supply programme, led by the state’s Water and Sanitation Management Organisation (WASMO), the report says, its main aim has been “to supply the village community with adequate, regular and safe water through household-level tap water connectivity, including households of people from backward communities.”
It adds, “The programme strives to build a sustainable model through building capacity of village communities and empowering them to manage water resources themselves. The programme is based on a unique cost-sharing model, where the community partially shares the cost, owns the drinking water supply assets, and holds the operation and maintenance responsibilities.”
“As a result of this programme”, the report continues, initially, villagers were “mobilized to discuss the key problems that the local drinking supply system suffers from”, adding, “These efforts involved participation by NGOs to ensure the inclusion of all views, especially those of women and the poorer members of the village.”
Based on these discussions, a Village Action Plan (VAP) was drawn up with 10% of the estimated programme cost collected from residents and 90% contributed by WASMO, the report continues to claim, adding, a representative ‘Pani Samiti’ for the village was then “established to plan and implement the programme.”
“As of the end of 2013, ~50% of the villages completed schemes at an investment of Rs 800 crore, and Pani Samitis were formed in almost all of the ~18,400 villages in the state”, the report contends, adding, “This programme has been the driver of Gujarat’s 100% achievement in the ‘rural drinking water’ category of the Index, helping the state fully cover all rural habitations and achieve a 100% decline in rural water quality incidents in FY 16-17.”
Ironically, the claim of 100% success with the help of Pani Samitis or water committees stands in sharp contrast to what the report seeks to suggest elsewhere: Just about 15% — one of the worst in India — irrigated command areas have operational Water Users’ Associations (WUAs), a community-driven scheme, with the right to manage all water-related issues. As many as 12 other states are better performers in this.
Yet, it continues, the lessons Gujarat has for other states include mobilizing community participation by “tapping” local knowledge base of problems and challenges surrounding water supply systems, even as “ensuring true representation through partnerships with NGOs and other relevant organizations.”
It is not just the rural areas that this “success” is visible, the report suggests. Even in urban areas, it says, 100% urban population has been “provided drinking water supply.” These are not the only successes that the report seeks to cite for Gujarat.
The capacity installed in the state to treat the urban waste water as a proportion of the total estimated waste water generated in the urban areas of Gujarat, the report claims, is 71%, the highest in India. Then, Gujarat treats, says the report, 62% of waste-water.