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India: After ensuring 100% of rural households have the provision of tap water supply in their homes in six districts – Anand, Botad, Gandhinagar, Mehasana, Porbandar, and Vadodara ― and more than 90% across 17 districts – Morbi, Jamnagar, Patan, Bharuch, Dang, Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Kachchh, Rajkot, Ahmedabad, Navsari, Amreli, Banas Kantha, Bhavnagar, Surat, Surender Nagar and Kheda – Gujarat is rapidly ramping up drinking water supply access to rural households. Around 90% of rural households have access to piped drinking water supply in the state. The state plans to achieve 100% saturation by October 2022.

The villages of the Bhavnagar district have dual source planning. Following a good monsoon, water from open wells, which this year had reached up to 8-18 ft in October, is used for drinking water supply. During dry months, villages draw water from the Mahi Pariage Regional Water Supply Scheme (the scheme gets water from Mahi River as well as Narmada when required). GWSSB provides water supply up to the village level. A good number of rural households in the district also practice rainwater harvesting.

At the village level, Water & Sanitation Management Organization (WASMO) is leading the technical part of JJM implementation. In Talaja and Mahuva blocks of Bhavnagar district, Gujarat-based Coastal Salinity Prevention Cell (CSPC), with long experience of working with rural communities of Gujarat in drinking water supply and access issues, rainwater harvesting, and water resource management, is leading the program IEC activities, community mobilization, and training programs for Pani Samitis and Gram Panchayat members.

Bhavnagar had about 85% rural households with the provision of tap water supply when JJM was launched in August 2019. Even in villages without tap water supply, communities were familiar with the participatory planning approach. These villages missed previous opportunities of household piped drinking water supply either for the lack of community unanimity on the contribution of 10% cost of in-village water supply works and payment of monthly O&M charges or the lack of motivation in pursuing the scheme. These villages are now clearly eager to get their JJM in-village schemes and are actively working with their program Implementation Support Agency and the government.

CSPC through its community mobilization, awareness, and capacity building program has played a key role. In the initial stages during Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, CSPC raised awareness on program components, the roles, and responsibilities of Pani Samitis, health benefits of household supply of potable piped water supply, etc., through digital media such as WhatsApp groups, animation films, etc. the CSPC had undertaken campaigns that mobilized community contribution and ensured program ownership by the Gram Panchayat. According to CSPC field managers and trainers, even villages without FHTC had their Pani Samitis set up during the previous program. CSPC activated these Pani Samitis for implementing in-village water supply systems under JJM Programme by raising their program awareness and capacity building through training. In some villages, where Panchayat elections had taken place, CSPC helped Gram Panchayats set up their Pani Samitis.

In Bhavnagar, CSPC has trained Pani Samitis in community mobilization; the need for women’s participation in a village water supply system; developing Village Action Plan through a participatory rural appraisal (PRA) approach; raising community contribution; determining water user charges; waterworks construction management and O&M, etc. CSPC has also supported Pani Samitis through all paperwork of the in-village water supply scheme, including technical surveys, tendering process, cost analysis, and opening Pani Samiti’s bank account in a nationalized bank.

Training of Pani Samitis in water quality testing, monitoring, and surveillance using field test kits was undertaken. Currently, WASMO conducts pre and post-monsoon water quality assessments through water quality laboratories. In villages, where the schemes are now operated by Pani Samiti, households pay minimum monthly user charges. Some Pani Samitis collect user charges on monthly basis, whereas a few Samitis have set up a system of half-yearly collection of water charges –either during Diwali or Holi.

In Gujarat’s rapid scaling up of rural piped drinking water supply some factors have played a catalytic role:

Direct Communication with Village Women
According to CSPC and WASMO officials, one factor that has worked in Gujarat is the direct communication with village women about drinking water supply schemes as mostly women, are responsible for collecting water for their households. Women are more responsive to the health aspects of potable piped water supply and take a determined position for improving their lot.

District Administration and Local Media
Working in tandem, the district water and sanitation administration and local media in Gujarat have played an important part in rallying villagers and Gram Panchayats into action. The details of in-village schemes sanctioned by the District Administration are published by the local newspapers and other media. This has had a positive impact in rallying villagers and panchayats towards the program objectives. Media mention has encouraged the Sarpanchs to lead their in-village schemes.

Recognition to Pani Samitis
Apart from training Pani Samitis in various aspects of in-village water supply and management, the Government of Gujarat recognizes their work and efforts through annual awards and recognition. On World Water Day, a Pani Samiti with a good track record in O&M of their in-village water scheme gets an award equivalent to 10% of its in-village scheme cost as a fixed deposit with a three-year lock-in period. To encourage women’s participation in Pani Samitis, through another reward, the government of Gujarat also recognizes the work of all-women Pani Samitis. Such encouragement of women in the water sector has encouraged a competitive spirit in water distribution management and good results for Gujarat.

Further Training in FHTC Saturated Villages
Adopting a futuristic approach, WASMO has designed a strategy to build the capacity of Pani Samiti/ Gram Panchayat of villages in gathering and analyzing O&M information of in-village schemes; MIS data verification related to water quality testing and uploading the data in the MIS; training of pump operators, plumbers, and electricians; understating the provisions of water audit in reference to the Gujarat Domestic Water (Protection) Act; village management of greywater; drinking water and sanitation provisions under 15th Finance Commission Grant; chlorination of village drinking water distribution system; and benefits of daily water supply. Under the training program, CSPC organizes street plays to reinforce the training messages. In this, CSPC has partnered with WASMO for 100 villages of Bhavnagar to facilitate such interventions to make Pani Samitis more responsible and responsive.

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