$154 mn World Bank loan for Punjab rural water supply

Wednesday, 20 December 2006, 06:00 Hrs
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Washington: The World Bank has approved a $154 million credit to the Indian state of Punjab to increase rural communities' access to improved and sustainable water supply and sanitation services.

The interest-free credit provided by the World Bank's concessionary lending arm, the International Development Association (IDA), has 35 years to maturity and a 10-year grace period.

The remaining funding for the $261.4 million project will be contributed by the state government ($49.6 million), government of India ($42.1million) and local government communities ($15.7 million).

The Punjab Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project will assist the state in achieving full coverage for water supply with at least basic service level of 40 liters per capita per day in some 3,000 villages.

It will improve operational performance of the existing water supply schemes in another 1,600 villages and implement environmental sanitation schemes in some 1,100 villages.

The project will also support capacity building of the rural local governments and user communities in developing and managing rural water and sanitation facilities and services.

"Punjab needs significant improvements in the quality of rural water and sanitation service delivery, which requires both additional investments and reforms," said Fayez Omar, senior manager India Programme and acting World Bank country director for India.

"The Bank's support to Punjab is part of its assistance to the government of India in scaling up rural water sector reforms nationwide and will contribute to achieving the water and sanitation related Millennium Development Goals."

The proposed project will support the state government's overall six year Medium Term Program (MTP) for the sector. The project will be implemented adopting a sector wide approach by which all new investments in the sector will adopt a consistent sector policy and implementation strategies irrespective of sources of financing.

The program will be implemented in all 19 districts of Punjab, and is expected to directly benefit about 7.4 million rural people.

It particularly targets people belonging to the Scheduled Caste, and those living in difficult terrain. Women would be the primary beneficiaries through time savings in collecting water, better health from more and cleaner water, improved sanitation and better hygiene practices.

"Providing the local governments and user communities the authority and control over decisions and resources is the key to creating ownership and achieving the sustainability of water and sanitation services" said Ghanasham Abhyankar, World Bank senior sanitary engineer and task leader for the project.

"This will be achieved through greater collaboration and partnership between the government department and the rural communities and building their capacities in effectively managing such partnership."

Some 30 percent of Punjab villages do not have access to basic drinking water services. The remaining 70 percent have piped water systems, but many of these are suffering from extremely low customer base and poor operational performance.

As a result, about 60 percent households in Punjab are dependent on unsafe private drinking water sources. About 50 percent of households have toilets. However, septic-tanks-effluent flowing in open drains has degraded the environmental conditions in the villages and poses a serious health hazard.
Source: IANS
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