WATSAN programmes and local governance

Seetha Gopalakrishnan
Thursday, September 17, 2015 - 10:28

The 73rd Constitution Amendment Act, 1992 was a landmark legislation that changed the way local self governing institutions functioned across the country. With the devolution of powers to Gram Panchayats at the village and Zilla Parishads at the district level, programmes relating to water and sanitation came under the local government’s purview.

Local governments were now made in charge of the implementation, operation and maintenance of water and sanitation programmes within their administrative jurisdictions.

District, Block and Village Water and Sanitation Committees

District Water and Sanitation Mission (DWSM) monitors and manages drinking water and sanitation projects at the district level. It works under the supervision, control and guidance of Zilla Parishad. Once all the village Panchayats under the control of the district administration submit their water and sanitation plans, the DWSM consolidates and analyzes the proposals and brings out a district-based water security plan.

While the chairman of the Zilla Parishad heads the DWSM, the Block Development Office (BDO) is responsible for coordinating all WATSAN activities at the block-level through the Block Water and Sanitation Committee.

At the core of grassroot WATSAN mobilization is the Village Water Sanitation Committees (VWSC). This body is responsible for ensuring community participation and collaborative decision making. The VWSC is responsible for all the micro-level planning and implementation such as the procurement of raw materials and engaging labour to construct and maintain water and sanitation infrastructure.  Awareness generation and IEC campaigns come under its purview.

Need for capacity building

Though political decentralization was effected and the necessary legal framework was in place, the overall functioning of these bodies was dependent, to a great extent, on the devolution of finances from the state government. Local self governance institutions are often stretched for resources. Capabilities of local leaders and functionaries need to be built in order to ensure timeliness and quality of the work executed. Instead of being treated as a one-time activity, capacity building should be an integral part of development planning at the local level to ensure the sustainability of projects in the long run. 

Please find attached a detailed write up by Arvind Kumar. You can reach him at arvindk@nrmcindia.co.in