Bhago Devi, wife of a small time farmer of Railon Khurd in district Ropar, no longer stores drinking water in in the containers in his house. Till a few years, this was a daily routine for her as the fear of water going out of stock would always loom large. But ever since the management and maintenance of water supply was handed over to the villagers in her village, there is a big respite as now there is a 24 hour water supply in every household.
Railon Khurd is one of the eight villages in Punjab where life has changed for the inhabitants with a 24 hour supply of water in the villages. Other villages which have become part of path breaking projects are Chitmali, Paprala, Rasulpur Dedran, Manhera Jattan of Fatehgarh Sahib village Singhpura and Sitabgarh. The villagers here have been able to get this amenity with the help of collaborative efforts from the Punjab government and the World Bank.
According to Priya Ojha a community mobilization specialist, this was possible because of zeal and enthusiasm of villagers, particularly the women. Under the project, the villagers are made to have complete control over the availability and supply of water and revenue collection. This is a real democratic scheme which imbibes the concept of by the people for the people and of the people.
In fact it was due to the holistic approach and sustained efforts of the state leadership that the number of villages having 24 hours water supply has risen substantially in last few years. The investment for each scheme was between Rs. 37 lakh to Rs 58 lakhs. Under the scheme, a piped distribution network has to be built to households by accessing ground water aquifers or canal water, and also overhead reservoirs to store the water.
Challenges which were dealt with
With ever rising demand of water due to growing population and the ground water level going down, improving water supply in the villages has been one of the biggest challenges for the state government. Still about 17% of villages in Punjab do not have water supply systems at all, while in the remaining there is only intermittent supply. Besides there are areas which have heavily contaminated water. Initially villagers were reluctant to opt for the scheme and make contribution. For making it financially viable in an average village of about 22 households at least 70 % of households had to take water connections. Despite several awareness campaigns like Information, Education and Communication (IEC) campaigns, when villagers did not show much interest in the programme, the cost sharing provisions were modified. As per the new provisions upper limits for community contributions were slashed from Rs.1,500 to Rs. 800. The amount for contributions was further lowered for border villages and others which were vulnerable to floods.
For effective implementation, audits were linked with the release of funds and the panchayat records were regularly updated. This ensured that there was no delay in the release of funds and the implementation was executed as per the plans.