KATHMANDU, NEPAL (6 DECEMBER 2018)—The seminar hosted by Asian Development Bank (ADB) discussed learnings from their recent evaluation of water supply and sanitation sectors. These evaluations conducted by ADB’s Independent Evaluation Department, with the objective of learning from the success and failure of its projects, provide evidence on the potential to scale up its model in Nepal and other countries in the region. The Small Towns Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Project, which started in 2000 and is now in its fourth phase, is showing that small towns using this model are delivering better water services than towns that are not part of the project. Indeed, the benefits and viability of the cost-shared, community-managed approach, which is coupled with training programs for water service providers, are such that the government has now adopted it for its water supply and sanitation program for small towns.
Evaluations findings presented at a forum assessing the latest water and sanitation initiatives in Nepal at the Radisson Hotel, Kathmandu on December 6, attracted participants from the Government, the civil society and international organizations including Nepal’s Minister of Water Supply, senior representatives of ADB and the SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, and stakeholders (of project towns) in water supply and sanitation.
Speaking at the event Secretary, Ministry of Water Supply, Gajendra Kumar Thakur said “assessing performance of projects and programs is crucial. Government resources are limited and assessing project performance demonstrates how resources have been spent and what results have been achieved.”
“Nepal’s small towns are rapidly expanding along its east-west highways and near the border with India, and playing an important role in linking the country’s rural and urban economies,” says Véronique Salze-Lozac'h, deputy director general of Independent Evaluation at ADB. “Because of this, small towns can make a strong contribution to advancing economic development and reducing poverty.”
“But that potential is being undermined by the increasing pressure these towns are under to provide basic public services. Improving those for water and sanitation is being made harder by low water tariffs that put maintenance and sustainability at risk, insufficient investment, and the sometimes weak technical knowledge of water providers— these were the foremost challenges that the project tackled,” says Salze-Lozac’h.
The project was piloted nationwide in 29 pilot small towns across Nepal, with populations of 5,000–50,000, and covered 593,000 beneficiaries. The cost sharing between government and the community was on a 50:50 basis. Households made up their contribution through a minimum cash contribution of 5%; an in-kind contribution, such as labor, of up to 15%; and the balance through a 30% loan from the Town Development Fund. In return, they received piped water supply connections on their premises.
Interviews with water service providers and a household questionnaire in project and nonproject comparison towns were used to help assess the program’s impact. The evaluation of the project’s first phase found the quantity, quality and continuity of water supplies was better in project towns. On quality, households reported significantly higher levels of perceived water quality for clarity, taste and odor than those in the comparison, nonproject towns.
Households reported the duration of water supply in project towns was on average 12 hours a day, compared with 7.5 hours in nonproject towns. And 72% percent of households in project towns reported that major supply disruptions were fixed in two days, compared with 26% in the comparison towns.
“The better services made it possible for communities which had hitherto resisted higher water tariffs to accept increases, which in turn enabled service providers to improve operation and maintenance, and expand their service areas,” says Garrett Kilroy, one of the team leaders on the evaluation.
The technical and financial training for Water Users and Sanitation Committees was vital for building the capacity for them to more effectively manage and operate their water supply schemes.
The project—which also had a household sanitation and hygiene awareness component—resulted in a lower incidence of diarrhea than in the comparison towns. Other benefits included reducing the burden on women collecting water project towns, which gave them more free time for other occupations.
Another recent ADB study assessing factors for success and failure in urban sanitation projects across Asia found that involving smaller-scale independent fecal sludge management providers can be highly effective in reaching the urban poor and off-grid communities. “This is important because the urban poor in many countries aren’t being reached by the large-scale sewer network and plant project that governments tend to rely on,” says the study’s author Tomoo Ueda.
Spending by governments and their development partners on water supply and sanitation is set to rise across Asia’s emerging economies to meet the Sustainable Development Goal 6 for ensuring the availability of safe and sustainable management of both.
Says Salze-Lozac’h: “The evaluation findings on both of these reports focusing on Nepal’s small-town water supply and recent sanitation projects provide a strong argument for pursuing further investment and commitment for countries in the region to further test the cost-shared, community-managed model that would include the poor and the vulnerable households. ADB can learn from these evaluation findings and take on useful success and failure factors from different experiences of water supply and sanitation interventions and from alternative evaluative approaches to help support member countries attain SDG goals.”
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