May 6, 2002
Mr. M. Venkaiah Naidu, India’s Rural Development Minister was the key-note speaker at the Inaugural Session of the World Bank Water Forum 2002 which opened today in Washington, DC. Mr. Naidu highlighted the reform initiatives taken by Government of India in the Water Sector. This Forum was attended by more than 600 professionals and intellectuals from various countries and the World Bank.
Mr. Naidu highlighted the pro active role taken by the Government of India in rural drinking water sector reform project in 64 districts having spent US $ 400 million. Further the total sanitation campaign organized in 163 districts with a total outlay of US $ 417 million. His address outlined six basic principles of sector reforms initiative :
subsidiarity i.e. that services should be delivered by the lowest appropriate level;
the adoption of a demand driven and participatory approaches;
focus on village level capacity building;
integrated approach to water supply, sanitation and hygiene promotion;
partial capital cost recovery and full operations and maintenance (O& M) financing by users; and
promotion of ground water conservation and rainwater harvesting.
He also impressed on the partnership between World Bank and Government of India in propagating reform principles in water, sanitation and hygiene. He indicated that Government of India is fully committed to expand the reforms initiatives, which will promote various sectors for rural development.
The creation of a city challenge fund for the urban local bodies and Neeru-Meeru and Pani Roko Abhiyan for water conservation and rain water harvesting were highlighted.
Mr. Naidu placed before the Forum four issues and suggested the Forum to deliberate on
how to mitigate drinking water quality problems with appropriate technology and with least cost;
how the transition from the existing institutional arrangements to a demand responsive mode can be addressed and managed;
in a multi-tier system of government, how does the higher tier support and promote the changing process in the local tier;
what are the processes in which the reform initiatives in water sector can improve the local government capacity.
Response from the participants indicated that the following four cardinal principles Awareness, Transparency, Community participation and Social audit, are the best basis for the success of the reform initiatives.
There was excellent response to the Union Minister's address especially on the water conservation, participatory processes in operation and management of drinking water sources and systems, water conservation and rain water harvesting. The participants were delighted to know about the proposed amendment to the Constitution for transferring functions, finances and functionaries to the people. Delegates showed specific interest in the social audit principles enunciated by the Union Minister.
The professionals showed overwhelming response to Minister's suggestions on sector issues revolving water supply, sanitation, health and hygiene and were highly appreciative of Government of India's initiative in local self government where more than one million women representatives out of 3.4 million elected representatives are participating in 2.23 lakh panchayati raj institutions.