CHAPTER 1: Helvetas' involvement in drinking water and sanitation in Nepal 1976-2000
Helvetas' involvement (with the financial support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, SDC) started in 1976 when it agreed to provide technical assistance to the CWSS Programme in the Western Development Region of Nepal that was financed by the Swiss Government. CWSSP took up many new aspects in the drinking water sector of that time. It started in the early 1980s with the inclusion of operation and maintenance. Various training programmes were developed to build up a cadre of skilled technicians and overseers/engineers. At village level, special training programmes were conducted to develop the managerial skills of the user groups and technical skills of maintenance workers. The importance of sanitation as a factor in improving public health was also recognised. Beginning in the mid-1980s, a full-fledged sanitation and health education package was developed, combined with a special programme aimed at women's involvement. By 1994, about 340 drinking water and sanitation projects in 16 districts of the Western Development Region of Nepal had been completed.
In 1987 HMG/N reorganised its ministries. This resulted in the transfer of CWSSP from the Ministry for Local Development (MLD) to the purely technical Ministry of Housing and Physical Planning (MHPP). The CWSSP evaluation report of 1989 states that: “The CWSS Programme at present is in a critical phase where it is difficult to foresee in which direction it could develop. Much depends on the efforts of HMG (...) to harmonise the CWSSP and the DWSS (Department of Water Supply and Sewerage) implementation approaches and to what extent the policy on people participation is put into practice.”
At this point, Helvetas decided to develop the new SRWSP concept on its own. This was done for several reasons: A major political transformation in Nepal in 1990, which allowed civil society to become active in development activities, opened new opportunities. Also, concepts of 'participatory' and 'community-led development' needed a fresh interpretation, reflecting the changing global thinking on development in the early nineties. Additionally, while developing the SRWSP step-by-step approach, efforts were made to design the projects on a smaller scale than in CWSSP (thereby enhancing people's sense of ownership), to involve women more adequately, to integrate sanitation and health education better and to further increase concentration on the poor segments of the community. The change from CWSSP to SRWSP was not just a change to another approach. It was seen as a new vision in which the construction of drinking water and sanitary facilities was combined with the empowerment of an increasingly aware community moving towards greater self-reliance and development.
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