The Government of India, the Government of Punjab and the World Bank has signed a $248 million loan agreement for the Punjab Rural Water and Sanitation Sector Improvement Project to help the state of Punjab improve its delivery of water and sanitation services in rural Punjab.
The project will aim for a water connection and a toilet for every rural household by end of the project period. It will also include a minimum of 10 hours of water supply daily, a toilet for all those households without a toilet, sewerage systems in over 315 villages and supply safe water from surface water to over 121 villages. The project will help the government's water department to reorganize and focus on service delivery.
Under the Swachh Bharat Mission, Government of India has accorded the highest priority to rural sanitation by aiming to promote cleanliness, hygiene and eliminate open defecation in order to bring a qualitative improvement in the life of the rural populace. Initiatives under this project are aligned with these objectives and would supplement the endeavour towards strengthening rural water and sanitation systems, said Raj Kumar, Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India.
The loan agreement for the Punjab Rural Water and Sanitation Sector Improvement Project was signed by Raj Kumar, Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, on behalf of the Government of India; Suresh Kumar, Additional Chief Secretary-cum-Principal Secretary, Water Supply and Sanitation, Government of Punjab on behalf of the Government of Punjab; and Michael Haney, Operations Adviser, World Bank, India on behalf of the World Bank.
The project is expected to directly benefit an estimated 8.47 million rural people in Punjab, including over 4 million female beneficiaries and 2.44 million beneficiaries belonging to the scheduled castes. It will also support the water quality affected districts in the state.
The project, which will be implemented over a six-year period, will support the government in addressing these challenges. It will help reorganize the department of water supply and sanitation to focus on service delivery rather than on asset creation through minor upgrades for improving efficiency, free house connections; progressively scale up service levels to achieve 100 percent meter connections for all rural households with at least 10 hours of daily supply with volumetric based charging; and encourage toilet use. These low cost and high impact activities are expected to benefit women and children who are otherwise responsible for daily water collection and storage.
Over four million women in Punjab, who today bear the burden of securing daily water supplies and deal with poor sanitation facilities, will benefit from this project. They will have access to more reliable and better quality water supply and sanitation facilities in their own households, said Michael Haney, Operations Adviser, World Bank, India. The project will reduce the time spent by women in collecting water, which they can now use in other productive ways.
The project will strengthen water quality monitoring methods and develop mitigation measures. It will finance cost-effective retrofitting of water schemes with engineering solutions to treat arsenic, fluoride, and iron in some 121 villages and construct surface water supply schemes to supply safe drinking water in districts such as Moga and Barnala. Over 625,000 households in the state still lack toilets. The sanitation component will provide a subsidy to every toilet-less household to construct a toilet coupled with information, education, and communication (IEC) to encourage use of toilets which is necessary to achieve Open Defecation Free (ODF) status at the village level.
This project aims to strengthen the decentralization processes initiated under the previous project and provide better services, said Srinivasa Rao Podipireddy, Senior Water and Sanitation Specialist and the project's task team leader.
The loan, from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), has a 5-year grace period, and a maturity of 18 years.