Sunday, December 03, 2006

ADB-funded water project not serving urban poor: Report

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, December 2[2006]:
A study conducted by water activists has concluded that the $53.9 million project funded by the Asian Development Bank has not been able to ensure quality drinking water for the poor population, as promised.
The ADB-funded Small Town Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Project implemented in 40 to 50 small towns across the country with an aim to provide quality drinking water to small town dwellers in six years, has failed to meet its target, the NGO Forum for Urban Water and Sanitation said in a report prepared on the basis of its research in Ratnanagar, Lekhnath, Parsa and Bandipur municipalities.
The targetted communities have not been able to reap benefits from the project because the service charge is too expensive for the poor communities residing in small towns.
The ADB had approved the $53.9 million project in 2000 and funded $35 million, Nepal government agreed to provide $10.9 million while $8 million was to be borne by water users and the local governments in the project sites. The deadline for the project was June 30, 2006.
But now that the project is yet to be completed, the deadline has been extended until 2008. The report has also said that the project designed by the ADB has not been able to realise the commitments made in its Water for All policy.
The report has drawn attention of authorities concerned over the issue of “affordability of the project services by the poor, lengthening of project implementation and its impact on the poor, representation and participation of the poor in decision making, sanitation services for the poor and transparency to the Water Users and Sanitation Committee”.
The report has said that average water tariff rate in the project towns reaches about Rs 12 per cubic metre for first 10 cubic metre of water against what costs only Rs 5 in Kathmandu Valley.
“The provison of compulsory 50 per cent contribution to the project by the water user communities has made it virtually impossible for the poor to benefit from the service,” it said, adding that the cost recovery scheme promoted in the Water For All policy needs to be revised to ensure that the poor people share benefits of water projects.
In the meantime, the project plan document does not include any mechanism for treating drinking water or wastewater.
Binod Neupane, deputy manager of Town Development Fund, the Nepali investor in the project, admits that there are problems in different aspects of implementation of the project. “We, however, cannot say that the project is a total failure. I don’t think it will be so difficult to make it a success if all the stakeholders work together,” he said.