“The SRWSP is a pioneering and highly innovative programme that has significant success in stimulating meaningful community participation in, and ownership of, projects. It has done this by placing a primary emphasis on social processes while maintaining technical standards.”
(External Evaluation 1997, page 1)
The experience with the SRWSP community-oriented stepwise process approach has been exciting as well as challenging. The Participatory Self Assessment and the External Evaluation have provided excellent opportunities to critically analyse the programme and to receive crucial feedback from partners and community people.
Despite a continuous effort to learn from experience and adjust the approach and activities accordingly, SRWSP has not been able to solve all the problems encountered. The four most important are:
• Disputes associated with the use of water sources.
The most important problem faced are disputes associated with the use of water sources. Usually these disputes take the form of competition between the communities and individuals, either over the establishment of ownership over the water resources or over the mode of water use, e.g. drinking water versus irrigation. The reluctance to share water is another source of conflict. The situation is further aggravated by the gradual deterioration of water sources in rural hills as a result of the continuous depletion of trees and other vegetation.
• Inefficient use of existing water.
Existing water is used inefficiently due to leakage from different parts of the system and non-use of waste water. More economical use of water is not only a technical matter but also a social issue. There is a need for raising awareness of water as a scarce commodity and for developing a sense of ownership in the communities.
• Lack of co-ordination and planning at the local level.
In line with the Decentralisation Act the village level authorities submit annual plans to the district. The district development plan is forwarded to the national government for final approval. All development activities should be included, even those which do not require special funds from the national or local government. Bureaucratic procedures delay approval of the plans for a long time. Changes and cuts in budgets must also be expected and these too hamper a smooth implementation. As a result, the community decides to by-pass the official procedures and turn directly to NGOs and INGOs for support. A community can forward an application for drinking water to different organisations, without informing the local authorities. This leads to duplication of efforts and ultimately inefficient use of available resources.
• Applications from communities with an old drinking water system.
Many applications are received from communities with an old drinking water system that no longer works, or works only partially. This may be the result of bad workmanship, lack of regular maintenance, underdeveloped sense of ownership, and drying up of the source. Malfunctioning systems are a health hazard, precious water is likely to be wasted, and time needed to collect water increases again. Repair of the system is very important but needs to be done in such a way as to make the change longer lasting.
The conclusion is that the underlying problem is the inappropriate selection of water sources, combined with a lack of open and democratic planning on its use. Planning of water sources and maintenance and repair of existing water systems should be done in collaboration with the local authorities and the users, including women and marginalised groups. A common, long-term vision will help bring about a consensus. Supportive educational and awareness-raising activities, including legal issues concerning water, are crucial in making long-term participatory planning possible.
Integrated water resource management
Taking the problems and lessons learned into account, the most realistic next step for Helvetas in its involvement in the drinking water sector in Nepal is to look in a holistic way at water sources and their use, while keeping water supply as the key anchor and building block of the programme. An approach which integrates the planning of all the locally available water sources is something new and needs to be developed as a concept. The SRWSP experiences, combined with those of other drinking water programmes world wide, have helped Helvetas/Nepal to arrive at an understanding and concept of Integrated Water Resources Management at the local level. IWRM is about:
• Planning of efficient water source usage where the use is agreed upon by all the stake-holders, including women and marginalised groups within the community.
• Conservation and protection of the water sources and the catchment areas.
• Water being recognised as having an economic and social value.
• Capacity building of individuals and groups involved, including educational programmes fostering legal knowledge and awareness.
Water Resources Management at the local level integrates four technical fields (water supply and sanitation, irrigation and drainage, environment and ecology, and others such as energy). The four fields are linked together through a strong supportive social and educational component which sustains activities in all areas.
Possible activities in these four technical fields are:
1. Water Supply and Sanitation
• Source improvement
• Environmental sanitation
• Water supply
• Repair and rehabilitation
2. Irrigation and Drainage
• Proper drainage of waste/overflow water
• Micro-irrigation for kitchen gardening
• Drip, sprinkler and canal irrigation
• Canal improvement
3. Environment and Ecology
• Source conservation
• Forest management
• Stream Bank stabilisation
• Terrace improvement
• Electricity generation
• Water for cottage industries
• Rainwater harvesting
On this basis, SRWSP piloted the participatory planning component of IWRM in two different geographical areas. It started with capacity-building training sessions for men and women from the area, followed by a PRA analysis of all the water sources, their present and planned use. A technical assessment gave more detailed information on the capacity of all sources and their possible use in one of the four sectors. In a workshop, facilitated by SRWSP, representatives of the community discussed the outcome of these two participatory assessments. Possible projects were prioritised and formulated into a village Water Use Master Plan. The village representatives then decided which actions could be implemented from their own resources (private or local authorities) and which needed external support. In another workshop the Master Plan was presented to various support organisations in order to get a commitment for support. In one of the selected areas the local authorities are already implementing some activities in accordance with the Plan. The pilot programme included only a short social phase due to time limitations. Emphasis was therefore given to source investigation, planning aspects related to water use, the master plan, and building coordination mechanisms which apply when working with potential support organisations.
Second social mapping
An outlook on the WARM Programme
Important lessons learned from the pilot activities are:
• Capacity building for local leaders and key persons is crucial for the process to run its course in a participatory manner. Planning from the lowest level upwards is essential to the inclusion of the views of women and marginalised groups.
• A transparent and holistic approach towards planning of all water sources develops a greater interest and confidence on the part of the community. This results in a willingness to share all the water sources, including those on private land, and at the same time a readiness to prioritise according to greatest need. A long-term vision also encourages good financial planning, including the mobilisation of people's own resources.
• Extensive social mobilisation and educational awareness-raising activities are important prior to implementing the Water Use Master Plan.
• The Water Use Master Plan should be realistic, not over-ambitious, and must be broadly disseminated among all the people involved.
• Potential support organisations should preferably be involved from the very beginning.
• Local Authorities have proven to be the appropriate institutions to facilitate the planning process as a whole; this is in line with decentralisation policies.
• Conflicts are still bound to arise. New means must be developed to tackle them.
Helvetas is committed to the continuing support of the water sector in Nepal. Two major decisions will shape this support in the years to come. The first is to phase out activities in the Western Development Region; the second, to initiate IWRM activities in a more remote and neglected area of Nepal under the WARM (Water Resources Management) Programme.
Water use master plan