This Performance Audit of National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) of Government of India makes some shocking revelations. The program spent massive Rs 82000 crores during the five years from 2012 to 2017, but could achieve coverage of additional 5.5% rural habitations. However, even at the end of 2017, 82% of rural population and 83% of rural household did not have access to adequate water supply of 55 lpcd as targeted. At least 15% of the rural schools did not have access to clean drinking water. The Audit showed failure at each stage of the program from planning, implementation, fund management, monitoring and evaluation to grievance redressal.
The CAG report was tabled in Parliament on On 7th August 2018[i]. The 177-page CAG audit report provides the audit findings on the implementation of the centrally sponsored scheme across 27 sampled states (it excludes Haryana and West Bengal since implementation of NRDWP was audited in these two states during previous year).
Objective vs Achievement Performance audit observes that despite expenditure of Rs 81168 crore (out of the allocated Rs 89956 crore including state share of Rs 46265 crores), the programme failed to achieve targets that were set for achievements by 2017, viz. See details below.
|All rural habitations, Government schools and anganwadis to have access to safe drinking water||Coverage of rural habitations increased by 8 % at 40 lpcd and 5.5 % on the basis of 55 lpcd during 2012-17 despite the expenditure of Rs 81,168 crore. Only 44 % of rural habitations and 85 % of govt schools and anganwadis provided access to safe drinking water.|
|50 % rural population to be provided potable drinking water (55 lpcd, norm was 40 lpcd till 11th Plan) by piped water supply||Only 18 % of rural population provided potable drinking water (55 lpcd) by piped water supply.|
|35 % of rural households to be provided household connections.||Only 17 per cent of rural households provided household connections.|
Key Audit findings:
PLANNING Annual Action Plans of States lacked bottom-up approach.
IMPLEMENTATION Poor execution of works and weak contract management resulted in works remaining incomplete, abandoned or nonoperational as well as unproductive expenditure on equipment with a financial implication of Rs 2,212.44 crore.
- CAG says: “There was inadequate focus on surface water based schemes and a large number of schemes (98 per cent) including piped water schemes continued to be based on ground water resources.” See figure, but does not explain why should there be more focus on surface water schemes.
- National Drinking Water and Sanitation Council[ii] (NDWSC) had remained dormant/ non-operational during the period 2012-17. As a result, a co-ordinated and convergent approach with other stakeholders was missing in the planning and implementation of the Programme.
- In nine States viz. Andhra Pradesh10, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Tripura, SWSMs remained non-functional as no meetings were held. In three other states SWSM was not formed and in nine more states SWSM met infrequently. In three remaining states, records were not made available.
- NRDWP is being implemented in the States through its six components comprising Coverage; Water Quality; Operation & Maintenance; Sustainability; Support and Water Quality Monitoring & Surveillance. In addition, funds are also being provided for water quality affected habitations, Desert Development Programme Areas, Natural Calamity and other sub-missions under the Programme.
- COVERAGE: Based on the norm of 40 lpcd, the percentage of fully covered habitations decreased in April 2017 in eight States (Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Meghalaya, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh) as compared to April 2013. Based on the norm of 55 lpcd, the percentage of fully covered habitations decreased in four States (Rajasthan, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal) in April 2017 when compared to status as of April 2013.
- QUALITY AFFECTED HABITATIONS: Lack of prioritisation, reduction in targets and shortfall in achievement were indicative of inadequate focus both in planning and implementation of schemes to address water quality issues, see figure.
- Another screenshot photo shows the break up of contamination affected villages and how low is the coverage of Community Water Purification Plants: 16.7% for Fluoride affected habitations, 5.4% for Arsenic affected, 0.2% for Iron Affected and 1.1% for salinity affected.
- The figure below provides state wise break up of habitations affected by various contaminations.
- SUSTAINABILITY The CAG report says: “The main aim of schemes for sustainability of drinking water is to ensure that water supply schemes do not slip back throughout their design period. This is achieved through construction of sustainability structures such as water harvesting systems, water recharging systems and surface water impounding systems aimed at improving rural drinking water supply.”
- CAG finding: “However, sustainability plans were either not prepared or were not being included in AAP (Annual Action Plan) in 14 States (Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Rajasthan, Sikkim and Telangana).”
- Audit says: “To ensure that water supply schemes do not slip back from fully covered to partially covered during the designed lifetime of the schemes, the Programme guidelines stipulate allocation of 10 per cent of the programme fund for sustainability to be used exclusively to achieve drinking water security.” Audit found that 16 states had spent between 5-10% for sustainability measures and eight states had spent less than 5%. Finding: “Audit noted that States which spent less than ten per cent of funds on sustainability component were among those that had a high number of slipped back habitations.”
- OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE: Audit observed: “scheme-wise O&M Plans for routine tasks, checks and inspections were not prepared in 20 States”. Funding: “As per the Programme guidelines, up to 15 per cent of NRDWP fund can be utilised by States for O&M and States will make matching contribution which along with funds provided under the Finance Commission’s recommendations as grants to PRIs will be used to meet the O&M expenditure on drinking water supply schemes.” CAG found that in 7 states, expenditure on O&M was less than 10% and in another seven states, it was between 10 and 15%.
- CAG finding: “contrary to the Programme objectives and guidelines, the overall involvement of PRIs and local communities in management and maintenance of drinking water supply schemes was found to be low and uneven across States.”
- SLIP-BACK PERSISTS: C&AG’s Performance Audit Report (No.12 of 2008) on the Accelerated Rural Water Supply Programme had highlighted the problem of slip-back of habitations from fully covered to partially covered or quality affected. However, 4.76 lakh habitations had slipped back during the period 2012-2017, as can be seen from following state wise break up.
- INFORMATION, EDUCATION, COMMUNICATION (IEC): Audit findings: “Results of water quality testing along with specified parameters were not displayed in 666 out of 773 GPs (86 per cent) and alerts/results of contamination of water was not communicated to 564 (73 per cent) GPs… 21,112 (75 per cent) beneficiaries stated that no training or awareness generating IEC activities was ever provided to them.”
- WORLD BANK FUNDED SCHEME IN FOUR STATES: A project for rural water supply in four low income States viz. Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh was started by the Ministry in December 2013 in collaboration with the World Bank. Under the project, a rural population of 78 lakh in 33 districts of four States was to be covered with 2,012 piped water supply schemes by 2020 at an estimated cost of Rs 6,147 crore (equivalent to USD 1 billion21), USD 500 million was to come from the WB and the rest from Centre, states and beneficiaries. The scheme is lagging behind, see the details in screenshot from CAG report.
- Audit says: “A Uniform Drinking Water Quality Monitoring Protocol (UDWQMP) was issued by the Ministry in February 2013… Three per cent of programme funds is to be allocated for the WQM&S component of NRDWP.”
- There was no mechanism for ensuring authentication and validation of data entered in Integrated Management Information System in several States leading to data inconsistency.
- Overall monitoring and oversight framework of the Programme lacked effectiveness and there was inadequate community involvement.
- The Programme guidelines provide for an elaborate set up for monitoring and evaluation spanning all levels i.e. the National, State and Community levels as given in Chart.
- The Audit concludes: “institutional mechanisms for inspection, vigilance and monitoring were either not established or were not functioning in the manner envisaged and the overall monitoring and oversight framework lacked effectiveness.”
RECOMMENDATIONS Some key recommendations of the Audit include the following.
- Water security plans and annual action plans must be prepared with community participation to ensure that schemes are aligned to community requirements and ensure optimum and sustainable utilisation of water resources.
- Ministry must strengthen capacity building/IEC at block and village levels so that they are equipped and empowered to meaningfully participate in the planning, management and monitoring of scheme and programme.
- Plans and schemes should be granted approval only after technical and sustainability aspects have been duly vetted and it should be ensured that all clearances are in place so as to ensure unimpeded execution of the works/schemes.
NRDWP outcome Budget is gender insensitive Another CAG Report of 2018 (https://cag.gov.in/sites/default/files/audit_report_files/Report_No_4_of_2018___Compliance_Audit_Observations_Union_Government.pdf) has a brief Audit comment on the NRDWP: “NRDWP guidelines takes into account the importance of women as the major stakeholder group and efforts have been made to involve women groups/self-help groups in planning, implementation and operations and maintenance of water supply programmes through representation in Gram Panchayats (GPs)/Village Water and Sanitation Committees (VWSCs). The Outcome Budget, however, indicated financial outlay and physical outputs specific to women in respect of NRDWP as “Not Applicable.” It did not even indicate the extent of involvement of women in planning, implementation of the programme and operation and maintenance of water supply programmes though it is women who primarily did collection of drinking water in villages.”
Conclusion This is a relatively clear headed and sharper CAG Audit on this very important issue. The Audit is a huge indictment of this essential, though expensive program. The most critical issues that plague the program is the lack of bottom up approach and involvement of the villages in each stage and aspect of the program. The Audit, also needs to question the appropriateness of some of the parameters of the program. For example, when it is well known that groundwater is the mainstay of the water supply systems, why go for piped water supply as a norm. Why not ensure that sustainability of groundwater as a resource is the central theme. For this, role of rain water harvesting becomes very important, as also regulation of groundwater use at aquifer level. These aspects clearly need greater place in the program.
[i] Performance Audit of National Rural Drinking Water Programme (Report No 15 of 2018) – Government of India, Tabled in Parliament on 7th August 2018: https://cag.gov.in/sites/default/files/audit_report_files/Report_No_15_of_2018_-_Performance_Audit_on_National_Rural_Drinking_Water_Programme_in_Ministry_of_Drinking_Water_and_Sanitation.pdf, Analysis of Outcome Budget Para in Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation/ Urban Development (Report No 04 of 2018) – Union Government – Compliance Audit Observation, Tabled in Parliament on 4th April 2018: https://cag.gov.in/sites/default/files/audit_report_files/Report_No_4_of_2018___Compliance_Audit_Observations_Union_Government.pdf
[ii] Consisting of representatives of different Departments, five State secretaries and ten members drawn from expert organisations/ Civil society organisations/Educational & scientific institutions/ Zila Panchayats/Apex Industry associations.