More than 70 percent of India's 990 million people live in half a million rural villages where water-borne diseases are a major health problem. To reduce this problem, over the past two decades India has implemented major investment programs in rural water supply and sanitation (RWS). World Bank lending for RWS in India grew from a total of approximately US$120 million in the 1980s to about US$260 million in the 1990s. Three IDA-funded RWS projects have been completed and two are ongoing. Two of the completed projects, Rajasthan Water Supply and Sewerage (Cr. 1046-IN) and Maharashtra Rural Water Supply (Cr. 2234-IN), and one ongoing project, Karnataka Water Supply and Environmental Sanitation (Cr. 2483-IN), are the subjects of this Impact Evaluation Report (IER). The OED study was done in partnership with the Center for Institutional Reform and the Informal Sector (IRIS) at the University of Maryland. IRIS staff carr ied out the data analysis, contributed sections to the report, and prepared a background paper on social capital.
The evaluation was conducted in two phases. During a pilot phase the study team reviewed available background data, developed and field tested the data sheets and questionnaires, elaborated household selection criteria, identified the appropriate sample size and composition, and conducted pilot focus group and community interviews. In the second phase, the study fielded teams of local researchers to administer questionnaires on the household and village levels (in two states, Karnataka and Maharashtra), collect secondary data, and fill out technical data sheets on each district and village visited and the operations of its water system. Data were collected from 60 Indian communities (50 project villages and 10 control villages) through a survey of about 1,100 households. Villages were randomly selected from among those that had been in operation a minimum of six months. In Karnataka and Maharashtra the team also conducted a technical evaluation. In Rajasthan the study team only conducted two simultaneous participatory workshops for stakeholders. In all three states the study team met with state and district officials and visited facilities constructed by the projects.
The evaluation shows that when pre-project social capital levels are high, communities generally have better perfori-ning schemes. The economic benefit of time saved in collecting water is estimated to produce a potential increase in household income of 30 percent. Finally, the impact on public health in those communities with the best-performing schemes is stronger than in communities with the worst-performing ones.
The evaluation also finds that Bank support for the rural water supply schemes in India is significantly improving the quality of life in project villages. The rural water infrastructure is in place and functioning, at a per capita cost that compares with cost indicators from other developing countries.
The achievements and impacts of the projects are considerable. Time required for water collection has been reduced by an average of 85 percent, system operation has improved about 50 percent, and system hours of operation have become much more regular, and the quality of water has improved. Over 80 percent of consumers in Karnataka and over 50 percent in Maharashtra rate the design of their new systems satisfactory. Sanitary conditions have improved substantially.
While the various schemes are helping to reduce the deficit in rural water supply and increasing water coverage, they have done little to foster local organizational capacity. The results of this study show that involvement of users in the development, implementation, and O&M of water supply systems has not yet been sufficient to achieve a desirable level of sustainability. Women, the primary water collectors in most rural households, have the most interest in ensuring that the water and sanitation service is designed to match their needs and performs well, and they need to be more involved than has been the case to date.
The study finds that project designers need to adjust the approach to service delivery according to existing levels of social capital. Special efforts may be necessary to motivate and mobilize community members if water systems are to operate sustainably in weaker communities. Besides the general lessons generated by the study (inter alia on the importance of adequate social mobilization, project rules, and hygiene education; and the efficacy and effectiveness of the community-basedapproach), policy recommendations include the advisability of respecting beneficiary aspirations for appropriate levels of service. Factors such as participation in multiple community activities by water committee members participation in system design, participation in system construction, improved beneficiary health, and satisfactory participation in the water group by women are all positively related to above-average system performance and should therefore receive special attention during water and sanitation project design.