Another 1,185 projects needed for 100% coverage: Run Rural Water Projects Commercially for Success – ADB

By Paneetha Ameresekere | Published: 2:00 AM Jul 2 2020
Focus Another 1,185 projects needed for 100% coverage: Run Rural Water  Projects Commercially for Success – ADB

By Paneetha Ameresekere

The Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) needs to consider incorporating additional provisions to the existing Rural Water Supply Schemes (RWSS) policies for RWSSs to be considered and operated as small business models, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said recently (17 June).

This is in the context that Sri Lanka already has 4,000 RWSS, several of which are cash-strapped and the need to have an additional 1,185 new RWSS by the year end (2020) to achieve GoSL’s target of providing access to safe drinking water to all citizens and to increase access to pipe-borne water to 60 per cent, from 46 per cent in 2016, another of GoSL’s aims, it said.

At a national level, 86 per cent of the population has access to safe drinking water, with 46 per cent having pipe-borne water. Out of the population that has pipe-borne water, 35.2 per cent (mostly urban) are connected to national water distribution networks managed by the National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWSDB). The balance (10.8 per cent) is served through community business organisations (CBOs) and local authorities, the ADB said.

As of 2016, around 78 per cent of Sri Lanka’s 21 million people lived in rural areas, the ADB said. 

These 4,000 RWSS in Sri Lanka are managed by CBOs and local authorities (Rural Water and Sanitation Section –NWS&DB), the ADB said.

“Requirements must be made in the policies to specifically involve rural women, not just as leaders, but as entrepreneurs as women-headed RWSS have generally been proven to be more successful than others,” the ADB said.

GoSL and future RWSS project financiers need to consider, in their project designs, from the inception stage, RWSS operations as small business models, it added.

Entrepreneurship development institutes

Inputs from the local entrepreneurship development institutes (like the National Enterprise Development Authority, National Apprentice and Industrial Training Authority, and universities that have special departments dedicated to developing such entrepreneurial skills) need to be involved in the project design and their inputs considered for identifying, developing, assisting project beneficiaries, and monitoring the entrepreneurial and/or entrepreneurial components of the RWSS 

projects, the ADB said.

Entrepreneurial skills must be included in the curriculum, mandatorily, vis-à-vis training programmes for women to acquire skills related to RWSS operations, at pre- and post-implementation of the RWSS, it said. 

The Department of National Community Water Supply (DNCWS) and NWS&DB need to incorporate entrepreneurial thoughts in their portfolio of assistance toward CBOs which manage existing RWSSs, the ADB recommended. 

Rural water supply management responsibility has been shared among different agencies. The DNCWS oversees a partial responsibility, while the rest is taken care of by the Rural Water and Sanitation Section of the NWS&DB. In some areas, respective local authorities take full responsibility, the ADB said.

Generally, NWS&DB’s Rural Water and Sanitation Section, through the section’s respective regional support centres, provide technical support to CBOs and local authorities whenever needed, the ADB added.

Making of a rural woman entrepreneur

Maludena Gedera Dayawathi, a widow and a mother of two is the Chairperson of the community business organisation (CBO) - Kalukele People’s Company in Kalukale, Polonnaruwa, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said on 17 June (Wednesday).

Due to her entrepreneurial skills, the CBO, which main business is to supply clean drinking water to her village for a fee through a rural water supply scheme (RWSS), saw her business having a total saving of Rs 5 million, Rs 1.1 million from the RWSS operations, and another Rs 3.9 million from a micro financing scheme, it said.

The operations in the office are run by six women staff members under Dayawathi’s guidance. 

But at the time she took over the company’s RWSS operations in 2013, it had only 370 household connections and the RWSS bank savings was just Rs 750. Electricity supply to the RWSS was disconnected due to unpaid bills. Savings from the micro financing scheme was 

Rs 600,000.

But because of Dayawathi’s commitment towards the company and to her village Kalukale, she now provides safe drinking water to 577 families in her village, a village comprising a total of 699 families. 

Her RWSS is looking for more financial assistance to invest in two more water intake wells, and to purchase a suitably sized electric generator for her RWSS to run without the electricity crisis.

Dayawathi recalled earlier times when the villagers had to face many problems in accessing water. She, along with the other women, had to go far away from the village to seek water, which proved difficult due to elephant attacks in the evening.

Having studied only up to the seventh standard, Dayawathi began life as a labourer in a local gherkin cultivation institute. She worked there for nine years and was promoted to quality controller, then to field officer and finally, to storekeeper. She left this job after a few years and engaged in paddy cultivation. In 2003, under the World Bank (WB) financed Second Community Water Supply and Sanitation Project, a CBO was formed and the RWSS was initiated. 

The CBO also started a community-based micro financing scheme. In 2004, she was appointed as a Director for Livelihood Activities of this project. She then earned a promotion to Social Mobilizer. Climbing up the management ladder, in 2013, Dayawathi was appointed as the Chairperson of this CBO in 2013.

At the same time, the village was severely affected with the chronic kidney disease (CKD) and people were desperate for safe drinking water, the ADB said. But Dayawathi’s commitment toward the village and her inner passion in managing the water system drove her to lead the RWSS to a better status.

She conducted an awareness programme in the village and made around 200 new water connections. She invested the CBO’s financial savings back into RWSS operations. She also wrote to the President about her village’s plight over the CKD issue, and as a result the CBO received a reverse osmosis plant. With her initiatives, RWSS operations picked up very fast.

Reverse-osmosis-treated drinking water, as well the other pipe-borne water from the original RWSS, was supplied to villagers at a reasonable price. The revamped RWSS supplied safe drinking water to adjacent villages too. Through her initiative, 38 CKD patients in her village got drinking water free of charge. The CBO also gave free drinking water to the village’s school, temple, and medical clinic, the ADB said. 

By Paneetha Ameresekere | Published: 2:00 AM Jul 2 2020

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