An oasis named Hebbali – the move towards sustainability
WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE: One of the borewells in Hebbali village has an excellent recharge tank created next to it.
Rural domestic water supply schemes in Karnataka are plagued by the usual ills: dependence on ground water sources and hence lack of source sustainability, bad quality power hampering pumping of water, water wastage through overflowing cisterns because of lack of ownership of the asset, bad quality work through a highly centralised system of contract and supervision and consequent asset depreciation, bad institutional responsibility with no revenue to manage the system, an d lack of a legal framework to manage groundwater with agriculture drawing away most of it. One struggles to find a modicum of a success story in most parts of Karnataka. Hebbali village, however, may show the way.
The village in Hosdurg taluk, Chitradurga district, and part of the Krishna river basin, is a striking example of a successful and sustainable piped water supply model. The village is part of the Gram Panchayat of Hebbali comprising six other smaller habitations.
It had the usual problem: a dysfunctional water supply system based on community connections from an overhead tank. Most of the time the system did not work for want of timely maintenance. Water was available infrequently and for about two hours every day. Fights were regular at the water point and the situation became worse in summer when the borewell started to yield less and power cuts meant the hours of pumping were restricted. Rehabilitation of the water system was attempted under a DANIDA (Danish International Development Agency) project.
A framework for analysis of the sustainability of a drinking/domestic water system needs to include five questions. Is the system sustainable
Institutionally and does it have democratic accountability?
Socially and does it take care of the poor and disempowered and provide access?
Technically and can it be managed and fixed locally by the institution in charge?
Financially and can it recover at least the O&M costs plus a small sinking fund?
Ecologically and can the source provide good quantity and quality water for 20 years or more?
Institutional framework: The village water supply and sanitation committee (VWSSC) under the Hebbali Gram Panchayat is responsible for the system. This is true for the entire state of Karnataka. Members of the VWSSC are elected on an annual basis by all the villagers. The accounts are submitted on a monthly basis to the Gram Panchayat and audited. Democratic accountability and specific job responsibility for water and sanitation have been ensured.
Technical framework: The source for the village is underground water being pumped from two borewells. It should be remembered that more than 92 per cent of the habitations in Karnataka source their water from such borewells. Every connection is metered and the meters came through an innovative process of taking dealership and then accessing it instead of buying it. It took six months for the entire infrastructure to be built by the contractor.
Financial framework: Assistance from the DANIDA helped the project substantially. A total of 85 per cent of the project cost came from DANIDA assistance through the State Government, 10 per cent came as people’s contribution and five from the Gram Panchayat.
The estimated cost of the project was Rs. 12.50 lakh but the actual cost was Rs. 17 lakh. The work was done by a local contractor but purchase of the material and construction supervision was done by the VWSSC.
A connection charge of Rs. 650 was collected during the initial phase of the project. Now, for new connections, a charge of Rs. 850 is levied by the VWSSC. This is for the meter and the chamber, as well as drawing one line to the household from the main line.
One connection per meter is ensured and the conditions explained on a card given to each family.
Water tariff is fixed at Rs. 30 for the first eight kilo-litres and Rs. 5 per kilo-litre for additional consumption every month. Bills are given at the end of every month regularly and payment collected within the next 10 days.
The main expenditure on the O & M side is the power bill which is easily covered by the revenues generated. The other expenditure includes staff salary. In about two years since the project began a fund of Rs. 30,000 has been created.
Ecological framework: Source sustainability is crucial to the continuance of any water supply scheme. In Karnataka, there is a striking dependence on ground water and especially deep ground water for domestic water supply. Overdrawing of a weak hard rock aquifer especially by agriculturists and little attention to adequate recharge, results in the drying up of borewells.
The redundancy of many rural drinking water supply schemes is a follow-up. An avowed policy of the State is to shift to surface water sources. However, this may not be possible in all places.