Tag Archives: Water

Stories hidden behind percentages

By Sharmila Ray, Senior Program Officer, PRIA

SLBConnect is currently live in both program cities of Uttar Pradesh- Rae Bareli and Varanasi. About 35 surveyors are active in both cities collecting data from about 13, 000 households. We are targeting to complete the data collection process by the end of March. The team is collecting a lot of valuable data on various service aspects on water and sanitation in both cities. These metrics include service quality, frequency, adequacy, billing, ways to lodge service related complaints, if users’ voice gets heard and whether citizens engage with their local governments on service related issues on a regular basis.

The data will be analyzed using statistical methods similar to what the government uses to assess service quality of these very same metrics. The difference? We will be presenting the citizen’s view to complement official records to understand gaps and differences. We have quite a few plans and aspiration on ways in which we can use this data in productive tangible ways, but that is the subject of another post.


 The government has placed handpumps in every neighbourhood. Most residents depend on this as a source of drinking water.

Because of the interactions with citizens during the data collection process, our team becomes privy to people’s stories about what these services or its lack means for some lives. I had said a few days back that one of the best things about the SLBConnect survey is the numerous stories it invites you to even if for a short while; and the invaluable insights these stories provide. These stories have stayed with me and continue to guide our understanding when we make sense of data-sets and corresponding graphs.

A young girl from Rae Bareli’s squatter colony told me that during festivities, her mother, a domestic help stays out the entire day due to increased work load at the households where she is employed. During these times, the girl and her sisters have to control their bladders and the need to defecate for the entire day since they cannot go out unassisted. In dire situations they check whether the older women from their neighborhoods can assist them.

Weak infrastructure regardless, Indian cities are seeing fast growth. And with this comes ubiquitous construction– every direction in which you look there is some form of construction. With this, the open space available for people to defecate has been shrinking. “We can only go before sunrise or after midnight when everyone is sleeping. The rest of the day we have to control,” a young girl told me.

Some houses build pit toilets so the women can have a place to defecate safely. I met the parents of four girls during a survey and they me how both were suffering from arthritis but would still walk to the fields to defecate because the pit toilet built in her home was small and they would rather their girls were safe. “No one will harm us; we have neither money nor youth. But our girls can’t go outside that far and in the open. Their safety gets threatened,” was the reason they gave me.

I was visiting a village in Purulia for an education project sometime back. There were two community toilets built as part of a government programme. The people told me how it had become a curse because in the absence of a water source nearby it had become a breeding ground for germs and infections. Their grouse “If only the government and contractors listened to us, we would have told them where to build the toilets”.

Not knowing the way in which data might be representing the truths tangled in people’s realities affects our understanding and our subsequent decisions. People’s participation (or *citizen engagement*) will take us a long way in bringing out perspectives from the ground in improving services. I am increasingly coming to believe that participation is not enough. It also has to be complemented by persuasion to change people’s behavior.???????????????????????????????

 Surveyors talking to residents in trying to assess the area characteristics before doing the neighbourhood survey.

 I could participate and respond in ways which suit my self-interest (consciously or subconsciously)/awareness about options or even service expectations, but this might not necessarily help always. For instance, in some towns, houses do not want to connect with the main sewerage line because they believe they will be charged for services, something they are unwilling to pay for. But without revenues the government cannot function either. It becomes the classic ‘chicken or egg- which one came first’ problem. And in these aspects, the persuasion factor should certainly play more of a role.

Am I being overtly idealistic? I do not know. What I do for sure know is that the jargon we lose ourselves in sometimes arises from real problems faced by people. It is an open question about where participation should end and persuasion begin and one that certainly requires debate. But I am beginning to believe that it is a necessary debate and step.


Local Election, Global Aspirations and Inconvenient Realities

By Chandan Chawla,  Independent researcher on Urban issues

The General Election mandate of May 2014 in favor of single political party has led to articulation of ambitious urban agenda for India that sets forth global aspirations. The smart city terminology occupies a central part of this national urban narrative. It intends to woo neo middle class looking for world class services and instant remedies to existing inefficiencies. In the maiden budget speech in July 2014, the Government pledged an allocation of Rs 7,060 crores for developing 100 smart cities in the country.[1] The announcement has quickly transitioned in local action with several States showing interest to explore the idea further.[2] The link on the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) website for smart cities[3] has put together an assortment of concept note, news items and other happenings on the subject. The concept note (carrying a tag of work in progress) lists various definitions of Smart cities used by different organizations and defines its key features.[4] The national agenda for smart cities is quickly percolating in to local politics with enthusiasm. A bit of tweaking would have done some justice to the local context and put aspirations in perspective, but local politics seems to be in a hurry to serve the same menu in the backdrop of national hullabaloo.

In November-December2014, elections were held in 278 civic bodies in two phases in Madhya Pradesh. Continuing with its national narrative, the BJP manifestos assured the fulfillment of smart cities with light metro rail, increased coverage of basic services and houses for urban poor. Of 278 civic bodies, the BJP won in 167 urban bodies.[5]

Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC), reporting a population of 1798218 of which 26% resides in slums went to polls on January 31, 2015 for electing new mayor and 85 councillors. There were 17 candidates contesting for Mayoral position and 456 for councillors in 85 wards. The direct contest for Mayoral position is assumed to be between Kailash Mishra of the Congress and Alok Sharma of the BJP. Continuing with the subsequent victory momentum, the Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, has focused significant energies on the mayoral and municipal polls in Bhopal.

Campaign manifestos

Active involvement of important State and Regional leaders pepped up the campaign. Development has been the overriding theme in this local election. Both the Mayoral candidates have tried to woo the voters through their intensive “jan sampark” (public contact programmes) and regular updates on face book pages. In the last week to the elections, a detailed manifesto was released by both parties. Although the manifestos were not widely available with the candidates or local party offices, the salient features were shared through local newspapers as well as on social media. The promises in manifestos were mentioned occasionally by candidates in their public speeches, but not widely distributed to voters, rendering them an object of academic analysis than public debate. However inspite of animated campaign, voters in Bhopal registered lowest turnout amongst 9 civic bodies at 56.70% on 31st January.[6]


Image 1: Advertisement posters displayed by Congress and BJP Mayoral candidates (Source: https://www.facebook.com/bjpaloksharma ; http://kailashmishra.com/)

The dialect resonating in the local elections in Bhopal Municipal Corporation has been “smart and digital”. The candidates in their advertisements flaunted collages of flyovers, high-rise buildings, metro projects, multi-level parking and spic-span pedestrian paths against the backdrop of beautiful lakes. They promised world class services in background of substandard or nonexistent infrastructure. The election manifestos for both parties were similar in the sense that they listed ambitious capital intensive projects but offered little insights on improving existing systems, looking at financial prudence or plugging the gaps to make basic level of services universally available. [7]

election2 Image 2: A Jan Sampark Sabha by BJP Mayoral candidate at Chowk- Old Bhopal (Source: Author).

Clean and Green City commitments were common to both party manifestos and promise citizens toilets, sewerage, better waste collection, treatment and disposal. As per Service level benchmarking (SLB) data gazetted by BMC in 2013-14, only 47% of households in city availed door to door collection service for solid waste. About 81% of households had access to toilets, while only 35% had access to sewerage network. Census 2011 data showed only 40.3% households in BMC had access to sewerage network. The MoUD sanitation ranking for the year 2009-10 designated Bhopal (with a score of 32.497) in red category which indicates Cities on the brink of public health and environmental ‘emergency’ and needing immediate remedial action”. The National Green Tribunal has been repeatedly alerting the city as the solitary river Kaliyasot is battling serious pollution by growing encroachment and disposal of sewage from nearby residential and commercial establishments. Recent agitations by people in newly merged areas of BMC related to proper collection and disposal of solid waste have also reached National Tribunal.

Both parties have promised adequate water to all citizens as per requirement and making Narmada water available to every household. As per 2013-14 SLB data, only 58% of households in the city had a water supply connection and they received 150 LPCD (liters per capita per day) of water for 1-2 hours in a day. Only 15% of water connections were metered and non revenue water accounted to 28%. The cost recovery for water supply charges was found abysmally low at 40%. The gap in access to water supply was also confirmed by Census 2011 results, which showed BMC with 65.9% of households connected to treated tap water supply. For Kolar Municipality (recently merged in BMC) the number was abysmally low at 5.3%. In both cases, less than 55% of households had water supply source located with premises. Within this context, it is interesting to note the Congress manifesto which promises 24×7 water supply. Benefits of the ambitious Narmada Water Supply project, constructed under JNNURM have been delayed in Bhopal and witnessed protests due to higher water charges. For the newly merged rural and urban areas, the political parties promise access to adequate water without detailing out the blue print. Kolar Municipality (comprising of wards 80 to 84) has added 77,424 new voters who were promised adequate water, sanitation, solid waste collection and public transport services on the brink of elections.

Both manifestos placed high importance of transportation and have ensured commitment to model roads, flyovers, foot over bridges for the next decade. Global aspirations like light metro rail figures in commitments of both parties.[8] To cater to needs of commercial areas, contestants have offered solutions like individual multilevel parking projects while the city still lacks a comprehensive plan for parking that can consider long term planning, land requirements and work out a feasible model to recover costs. On the front of urban poor, the solutions offered are age old. Housing for urban poor under CMs housing scheme, basic services to all slum settlements and Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode for slum redevelopment are offered by BJP manifesto. The Congress manifesto offers to simplify rules for regularisation of 1000 illegal colonies to be able to reach them with basic infrastructure services. On employment opportunities, there are unexciting ideas like market spaces for unemployed youth who can initiate small business in these areas in one and generic commitments to establishing urban resource centers and skill centers in other. City wide Wi-Fi has been proposed by both parties as a pre requisite to Global infrastructure.

Wait to watch

One will have to wait and see if and how fast the ambitious manifestos and charged terminology actually translate in to local action. In the process, it may be useful to consider that successful smart cities will owe far more of its success to finding new ways of doing routine things like managing water, waste, street lights, vehicular traffic and existing services with minimum resources. It will not necessarily benefit only from building new infrastructure or expanding our cities endlessly, but will have to look at new ways and arrangements of providing old services. While good gadgetry and digitisation may help achieve efficiency, it will not replace the need for good governance, equipped staff, institutional accountability and prudence of the citizens.


[1] http://indianexpress.com/article/business/business-others/full-speech-arun-jaitleys-maiden-union-budget/
[2] For instance, the newly formed Telengana State has already started talks with Dubai for establishing smart city in Hyderabad. India and United States recently signed three Memoranda of Understandings (MoUs) to develop Allahabad, Ajmer, and Visakhapatnam as smart cities. Several countries like Japan, Germany, Sweden, Singapore, Israel, UK, US, Hong Kong and the Netherlands besides MNCs have expressed interest in building smart cities in India.
[3] http://indiansmartcities.in/site/index.aspx
[4] The concept note defines Smart Cities as those which have smart (intelligent) physical, social, institutional and economic infrastructure while ensuring centrality of citizens in a sustainable environment. It expects a Smart City to generate options for all residents to pursue their livelihoods and interests meaningfully and with joy.
[5] http://www.hindustantimes.com/bhopal/mp-bjp-sweeps-second-phase-of-civic-elections/article1-1294215.aspx
[6] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhopal/61-26-get-inked-in-civic-polls-phase-III/articleshow/46084093.cms
[7] Congress Mayoral candidate, in his election campaigns flaunted vision for clean, green and hi-tech Bhopal. BJP Mayoral candidate pitched for making Bhopal a world class city. The BJP manifesto had distinct sections on clean, green, smart, lake, heritage, digital and light metro city. It also had separate commitments for each of 6 Vidhan Sabha Constituencies.
[8] The design prepared for light metro published in a local newspaper in December 2014 included 80 km track with a mix of underground, surface and elevated tracks. A detailed report is expected to be ready by January 2015.

A day in RAE BARELI……….

By Swathi Subramaniam, Program Officer, PRIA

I had a chance to visit Rae Bareli for the first time. Rae Bareli is a constituency of Sonia Gandhi and has been the constituency of Gandhi family for many decades. Naturally, I was very much excited and was expecting to see a model constituency.

The city has well known institutes like NIFT, AIIMS, Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Petroleum Technology, NIPER, Feroze Gandhi Institute of Engineering and Technology, Feroze Gandhi College etc. and many other colleges named after Gandhi family. Another visible ‘development’ is the connectivity to Lucknow through Lucknow – Rae Bareli highway. However, when I visited these localities within Rae Bareli the experience was shocking.

The local transportation is very unwelcoming with broken buses. Living in Delhi we are used to seeing landmarks and directions for different areas but perhaps expecting such a thing in Rae Bareli is a luxury. The city continues to have Horse Drawn Carriages as an important source of transportation. There are no autos. Quality of hotels in the area is much below standards as expected in any normal small town. If you do not have a cab or a local person with you it is impossible to move around the city. In spite of being a politically important place and having many educational institutes we could not find places which could be visited for relaxation. Another interesting observation was that very few girls were found on the city roads.

The city has umpteen number of handpumps found every 300-400 meters which is the major source of water for drinking. Ironically the Piped Water Connections inside the household deliver poor quality of water. The piped water is not fit for drinking hence leading to several illnesses. That is why this water becomes a source for “water used for non-potable purposes”.

The city has a sewage issue. Every side of the road, dirty water is stagnated. The whole city lacks a lot of such basic amentias which portray a different view of the city than what one would expect from such a politically important place.

Rae Bareli is an eye opener for the development illness it is suffering.

Open defecation and India’s urban poor

By Sharmila Ray, Senior Program Officer, PRIA

A couple of months back my cousin and I got talking about the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. It’s a good policy if it can be implemented and Prime Minister Modi is right, having strong, efficient sanitation services is a good way to restore dignity to India’s people. Sanitation is also of course an essential service and just by that it should cover 100% of the country’s population. This was my point.

My cousin agreed but raised a question. If in the last few decades of the 19th century, people in England, rich and poor both, could rally the government for water and sanitation services why was it that in India, it takes so much rhetoric and government policy pressure in as late as 2014. Why was it that Indians, regardless of social status were willing to spend so much money and energy on marriages and festivals but not on ensuring basic community or household level sanitation? He was exasperated “Why can’t they build more toilets?”

According to UNICEF, nearly 50% of India’s population defecates in the open. 37 million from India’s cities resort to open defecation which is about 12% of India’s urban households. The situation is worse in smaller cities (population<100,000) with open defecation at around 22%.

Some houses are too small for all members to dig pit toilets within its premises

Some houses are too small for all members to dig pit toilets within its premises

My experience from the field while working on SLBConnect tells me that most people do understand that these are important services. During field work, many have told me how unfair it is that they don’t have access to clean water or that even where toilets have been made, there is no water connections/source close by. There have been quite a few awareness raising campaigns in the last decade and these seemed to have worked.

In many small towns and cities, more than half the houses are not connected to sewerage facilities either because there are no sewerage connections close by, or because their households haven’t been connected to the main city sewerage network.  In some towns, houses do not want to connect with the main sewerage line because they believe they will be charged for services, something they are unwilling to pay for.

In the cities we are in the process of surveying- Ajmer, Jhunjhunu and Rae Bareli- the urban poor living in squatter colonies have dug pit toilets or arranged for soak pits and other such way of discharging waste water since their houses are not covered by sewerage networks.  Not every can afford to do so though. Some houses are too small to support pit toilets since these need constant cleaning otherwise feces starts piling high and the houses start smelling and becoming unhygienic. Only the young girls of the house use these pit toilets for the sake of their safety, the others go out in the open. Not everyone owns a residential space big enough to have soak pits either.

Young girls try and avoid open defecation as much as they can especially during daylight since the amount of safe or hidden places available have been shrinking with ubiquitous construction

Young girls try and avoid open defecation as much as they can especially during daylight since the amount of safe or hidden places available have been shrinking with ubiquitous construction

There is also the population of urban poor living in non-notified and unauthorized slums. To put it simply non-notified and unauthorized slums are those slums which are not recognized by the State. This means that residents have no claim on any service- water, sanitation, electricity etc.

These are people literally in a no man’s land. They do not own the houses they live in, the utensils are not theirs, nor the clothes, nor anything else. These can be razed, burnt, thrown, taken without any legal implications. Come monsoon, houses get washed away, and then plastic covers and mud houses emerge again out of the slush like sprouting mushrooms. Every monsoon. No sanitation either. So people defecate in the open and there is no way to clean the place. When you are in no man’s land nothing belongs to you, and nothing possibly can. In this piece of land you are the mercy of others. What can you possibly claim here?

Just building scattered toilets will not work and cannot work. Unless these basic infrastructure issues are addressed along with the necessary behavior change, an open defecation free India will remain a distant dream and the content of mere rhetoric.

Potable Water Solutions for Slum-Dwellers!- Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Mumbai

Water solutions for Slum Dwellers- in Mumbai

Source: http://urbanpoverty.intellecap.com/?p=579

During the peak summer months, major Indian cities experience severe water shortages. The per-capita availability of waterhas fallen from 5,177 cubic meters in 1951 to 1,544 cubic meters in 2011. Despite the rainfall during the monsoon months, India has not done enough to conserve water for “off-season,” or dry season, usage. Where middle-income developing nations like China and Mexico have built large water storage facilities that store, on average, 1,000 cubic meters per capita, India’s per-capita storage is no more than 200 cubic meters.

In urban India, the segment of the population that is acutely affected by water shortages is slum-dwellers. When even legal residents of a city can experience infrequent access to water, the non-legitimized status of slum-dwellers worsens their access to the basic services that other urban citizens are privy to. Typically, there is a set time every day when water can be collected by all slum-dwellers, usually in buckets and pots filled from community taps. In 2002, the National Sample Survey Organization conducted a survey and found that in 84% of notified slums, the main water source is tap water supply. Though this statistic seems high, it effectively glosses over the differences in water access from state-to-state: in the state of Bihar, for example, not a single slum accessed water via tap at the time of the survey.

The Government and Urban Water Policy

In 1972, the government launched the Environmental Improvement of Urban Slums program that specifically prioritized potable water and sanitation services. In 1996, the government also established the National Slum Development Program to provide drinking water and community toilet facilities. The latter program persisted for nine years, but after spending INR3,100 crore (~US$560m) and helping approximately 46 million slum-dwellers, it was cancelled, presumably due to limited funding and lack of political support.

As urban borders expand, it becomes very clear that the water issue is one of insufficient water supply and inadequate access, not lack of government awareness of the growing water challenge. With few exceptions, the central government has treated access to water as part of urban infrastructure development; urban water supply has not been treated as a stand-alone issue in past and existing policy. The central government leaves such planning to city-level authorities. Water supply is governed by overworked local agencies that spend most of their budgets on subsidizing users or meeting administrative costs. Once these initial fiscal obligations are met, there is little funding to channel into further investment or maintenance of new or existing water lines. The private sector has played its part to make up for undersupply by bringing water to underserved areas via water tankers and tube wells, but some private sources (i.e., the “water mafia”) have been known to take advantage of undersupplied communities at a significant profit. Even if all private sector efforts were ethical, they are not enough, especially given rapidly depleting water tables.

Water Supply in Mumbai’s Slums

To understand the depth of insufficient water access and undersupply, the city of Mumbai is a prime example of the challenge. Over the last 20 years, rural-to-urban migration has exploded, as has the growth of slum communities. Most of these communities are concentrated in the city’s western suburbs – along main roads, railways, garbage dumps and on crumbling sidewalks. More than 60% of the city lives in slum communities, and less than 20% of slum-dwellers have access to potable water.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) manages the city’s water supply, but it does not have enough resources to meet the city’s demand, quality, access and management needs. Mumbai’s water networks are over 100 years old and poorly maintained. The networks supply water to nearly 88% of the city population, but this statistic is deceiving: water supply is erratic and unreliable, oftentimes available for no more than four hours per day in many areas. It has been reported that the BMC has recovered only 47% of what it spends on supplying water, where losses result from leakages, stolen water (one statistic cites a loss of at least 86 gallons daily), low tariffs and over-staffing.

Access to in-home piped water is a luxury that the middle and upper classes can afford, but is out of reach for low-income households. Approximately 30% of the city’s population does not have access to in-home piped water. There is a high cost associated with in-home water access, thus slum-dwellers rely on getting water from communal or public taps, purchasing BMC water at inflated prices from vendors or illegally procuring water from municipal supply lines. There is a pay-per-use system in place in most Mumbai slums, where slum residents pay US$0.25 (INR14) per liter; however, this is more than what most residents can afford on an ongoing basis.

Quenching the Thirst of Slum-Dwellers

ReachOut Water Solutions (ROWS), a not-for-profit development consultancy, has proposed a new kind of decentralized water infrastructure service in Mumbai’s slums. To understand the solution, though, one needs to probe the problem to grasp its meaning in slum communities.

The average slum household in Mumbai consists of 4.2 people and makes a total monthly income of about US$100 per month, or US$3.32 per day. On average, slum-dwellers spend US$1.50 per month on water. But slum-dwellers need more water: the BMC provides 30 liters per capita every day, but this is not enough to meet daily needs. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends “20 liters of potable water and 30 liters of non-potable treated water per person per day.”

It is not enough to say that slum-dwellers need more water every day, they actually need better access to water of improved quality. Many urban residents may rely on in-house piped connections or bottled water to fulfill their daily needs, but these options are too expensive for the average slum resident. And what water slum residents can access is not clean. According to ROWS’s research, 13% of BMC water reaching slum communities is contaminated with illness-causing bacteria causing more than six million cases of waterborne illness, 6,000 deaths and millions of hours of lost productivity every year.

The issues that exist around water supply, quality and access all point to water management deficiencies. Currently, the BMC does not provide in-home water access to more than four million slum residents. Since slums are ever growing and have high population densities, it is difficult for the BMC to provide consistent water services to all slum households. As mentioned above, the BMC has not been able to fully recover its costs due to system inefficiencies that further exacerbate the Corporation’s inability to make sufficient revenues. These inefficiencies include, for example, non-payment of water fees, pipe leakages and water theft. This is a vicious cycle: since the BMC cannot make the revenues it needs to break even, it does not have the resources to improve water services to the city’s slums. What is interesting to note, however, is that slum residents are clearly willing to pay some fee for water access: “illegal water middle men” thrive in slums by selling BMC water at increased rates. These are profits that could potentially go to the BMC or another legal service provider directly, but for the reasons outlined above, this revenue potential is being pocketed by profiteering third party providers.

The Slum Water Program Business Plan

ROWS has presented a slum water solution to the government based on a business model it has already proven in Mumbai with its Slum Sanitation Program (SSP). Through the SSP, ROWS has been able to provide 550 toilet blocks in slum communities, with support from the BMC and other community-based organizations. To date, ROWS claims 800,000 slum customers have paid for access to these community toilet facilities.

The Slum Water Program (SWP) will initially target its 800,000 SSP customers with the goal of meeting the water needs of at least 50% of slum-dwellers who do not have in-home piped water by 2025. ROWS cites four primary components of the SWP:

  • To provide 20 liters of treated municipal water and 30 liters of treated groundwater to SWP members, as well as a 10-liter pay-per-use potable option for non-members;
  • To remove 99.99% of bacterial contamination in provided water by using a small ultraviolet (UV) treatment device that is already widely used in rural India;
  • To set up a delivery system whereby sealed and compressible water containers will be made available to SWP members and pay-per-use customers at designated collection centers or home delivery for a small fee; and
  • To enable slum communities to manage the water services solution by working with the existing customer base that already pays for improved infrastructure services like SSP.

On a daily basis, ROWS’s goal is to provide sustainable, low-cost water to 1,500 SSP members and 200 pay-per-use customers. The water will be sourced from the BMC and from a bore well. Since ROWS has been successful in working with slum-dwellers and having them pay a fair price for services, the BMC has confirmed its interest in working with ROWS and is willing to install high-quality water lines in selected SWP locations. This would ensure 20 liters of potable water per person per day. The bore well will provide 30 liters of water per person per day, coming from groundwater that is available from Mumbai’s high groundwater table. Because this water is brackish, it cannot be used as drinking water, but it is safe to use for bathing and cleaning.

Water will be stored in large tanks located at the SSP building site. Each tank will hold enough water to supply daily demand. Municipal and bore well water will be stored separately. Municipal storage will include three 10,000-liter tanks to store 30,000 liters in total at one time. This amounts to approximately five hours of daily municipal supply, meeting the total need of 32,000 liters per day. The bore well storage will also include three 15,000-liter tanks to distribute 45,000 of non-potable water daily.

Both of the water sources, municipal and bore well, will be treated with UV units. Each unit kills 99.99% of disease-causing organisms and can treat 15 liters of water per minute. These treatment units are low-cost, with a capital cost of US$300 and an annual electricity cost of US$14. ROWS intends to use 10 UV devices to treat the 77,000 liters of daily water supply. Because the units are simple to use, staff can be easily trained to use and maintain them.

Once the water is ready for consumption, ROWS will provide a variety of distribution options to meet varied budgets and daily demand. Community customers will be the core of ROWS’s business. They can sign up for a monthly water plan and choose to have water delivered to their home via water taxi (auto-rickshaws ready for water container support) or they can pick up their water from the SWP site in 10- or 20-liter bottles. These customers can receive 50 liters of water per day either by delivery (for a fee) or pick-up.

Another option is to pay per usage. Some slum residents may not be able to afford the upfront monthly fee, but can buy water daily to spread the expense more evenly. Such customers can buy the SWP water from a designated street vendor in 10-liter bottles or directly from SWP locations in 10- or 20-liter bottles. The water bottles can be traded every day so that they can be cleaned by SWP and reused. There will be a US$0.40 deposit on each bottle, which customers will get back when they bring their empty bottle back to be traded in.

Implementing a New Water Strategy

ROWS has clearly identified what issues surround slum water supply and designed a model that incorporates free market economics, as well as a true partnership of players already working on the urban water provision scene. ROWS estimates that the total initial pilot investment of US$37,000 will be recovered over three years. The pilot operating costs will be US$1,300 per month with a total monthly income of US$2,600, translating into a monthly profit of US$1,300.

Upon consultation with the BMC, ROWS will execute a SWP pilot at a selected SSP toilet block to prove its business model. The pilot will help ROWS to further refine its model and strategy to be more efficient so that it can function properly as a franchise. The key here is ensuring consistency in services and to settle on the most appropriate and accessible pricing system. This is what is most remarkable about the ROWS business plan: the idea is to scale this model once it has been perfected and allow it to be owned by members of the slum community. If this model works well, there is vast potential for the same model to be duplicated to provide other services to slum communities, such as waste management.

ROWS is proving that it is possible to work with local authorities in providing tailored solutions for poor communities. Though there is not yet enough public data to shed light on how the project, and partnership, is functioning, the SWP is an example of a new way of approaching access to basic services. Hopefully, other organizations with similarly effective models in other underserved sectors will be able to step forward and prove the potential of innovative approaches implemented by efficient partnerships.