Revisiting WSS sector: A Paradigm shift towards Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM)

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It is high time that WSS is not treated as a stand alone component of water resource management and the concept and practice of WSS is revisited and a paradigm shift is made towards IWRM. That way the current strategies and approaches of WSS are driven by the principles of IWRM. The principles of IWRM cover amongst others a) Clear accountability) Clarity of roles c) Efficiency and effectiveness d) Being knowledge-driven e) Integration and f) Community participation: Further, implementation strategies /approaches of WSS are embedded in IWRM concept.

From the 1992 Rio Summit on Sustainable Development one of the clearest sets of management principles was developed and agreed. Agenda 21 describes them as “Integrated water resources management (IWRM) is based on the perception of water as an integral part of the ecosystem, a natural resource and a social and economic good, whose quantity and quality determine the nature of its utilization.. To this end, water resources have to be protected, taking into account the functioning of aquatic ecosystems and the perennial nature of the resource, in order to satisfy and reconcile needs for water in human activities. In developing and using water resources, priority has to be given to the satisfaction of basic needs and the safeguarding of ecosystems. Beyond these requirements, however, water users should be charged appropriately”.

The framework of IWRM should promote and makes use of the possibilities to influence political processes on all levels, so that government authorities can act as effective regulators. The provision of drinking water supplies must never be dealt with in isolation from questions concerning sanitation services. It is therefore time to advocates the demand responsive approach to sustainable service delivery of water.

Of late, institutional aspects have been recognized as an important element of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM). However, when we position WSS in IWRM frame work it is to be noted that institutionally IWRM is not about integrating institutions responsible for water into some sort of vast controlling bureaucracy. Rather, it is about the harmonization of the approaches and understanding of the multitude of different resource managers. This is a matter of persuasion and information, so that different water stakeholders see that it is to their long-term benefit, as well as to perceive as wider social good and therefore to modify their management of water resources. Institutions are considered to be the mould of social life; consisting of systems for interaction of laws and mechanisms for monitoring and enforcing these laws

Redefining Roles of the institutions to harmonize WSS with IWRM is to be seen from the benefits accruing from such a positioning of WSS within IWRM framework. These benefits include among others a) water security b) efficient use and c) improved waste management. In WSS sector, the present institutional arrangements with their pre-defined roles functions is not adhering to the principles of accountable, cost effective service delivery based on buyer/seller relationships where in full-cost recovery issues are not being addressed and concepts of service agreements are yet to be considered as an effective instrument of change process. One significant step in such change process is the separation of bulk water supply from resource management. This act of separating bulk water services from resource management responsibilities is almost a universal prerequisite for achieving efficiencies and accountability within the water sector.

The basis for effectively implementing WSS strategies under IWRM and the institutional requirements are that (i) the processes of identifying saved water, ensuring that it is realized and that the saving is maintained must be scientifically robust, (ii) that the processes for documenting the transfer of the usufruct right must be rigorous, and (iii) that there must be reporting and monitoring of the use of the transferred right to ensure use remains within the limitations of the right.

WSS work within the framework of IWRM can be effectively carried out if and only if individuals and organisations fulfil new roles in effectively managing local water resources and to do this they need to possess the necessary competencies, including task-specific skills, a cultivation of general attitudes, awareness, values, knowledge and abilities through instruments like training and development programs whose principal objective of training and development is to make sure the availability of a skilled and willing workforce to an organization.

Through generous support from donor agencies such as Asian Development Bank (ADB)- IWRM projects are being taken up in states such as Karnataka parts wherein, all the issues relating to WSS is being looked into within the framework of IWRM