Water Champions initiate or implement water reforms in their chosen field, and are directlyinvolved in improving the water situation in their respective countries.
Water ChampionSalma Sadikha: When Water Connection Barriers Disappear
Knowledge Management Officer
ABOUT THE CHAMPION
Ms. Salma Sadikha served as Social Development Specialist at the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board(BWSSB) from 2000 up to early 2007. She was seconded there from the Department of Women and Child Developmentin Karnataka specifically to work on BWSSB's pro-poor initiative under the AusAID funded Master Plan Project. Her workfocused on improving the access and quality of water supply and sanitation services to the urban slums withoutcompromising the interest of the utility.During her stint with the BWSSB, Ms. Sadikha worked on two major reforms to the sector— rationalizing connectioncharges to reduce the actual fees, and relaxing the land tenure requirement for installing piped connections, whichconsiderably hindered the urban poor's access to safe drinking water. This work was done through BWSSB's Social Development Unit(SDU), then a newly established unit with the unenviable responsibility of navigating through the social aspects of connecting the poor.From three pilot slums in 2002, coverage was extended to 43 slums. Throughout this experience, nongovernment organizations,community-based organizations and prominent persons from within the community served as liaison between the poor and the utility.Ms. Sadikha's and the SDU's work was instrumental in formulating the State Policy for Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor, the first inthe country, which is now awaiting Cabinet approval for state-wide implementation. It has also attracted the attention of major universitiesand donors, i.e. Gates Foundation, Japan Bank for International Cooperation, etc.Ms. Sadikha is a Class I officer of the State Government holding a post graduate degree in Child Development and a Bachelor's degree inLaw. In 2004 she successfully completed a Post Graduate Certificate Course in 'Cross Sector Partnerships' from the Cambridge University inUnited Kingdom. Her professional experience encompasses 20 years of fighting urban poverty, from the grass roots level to the policymaking levels of the government.
Prior to the Bangalore Water Supply and SewerageBoard (BWSSB)'s recent initiatives, what percentageof Bangalore's slums had access to safe water?
When we started AusAID's Master Plan Project in 2000,around 70% of the slums had far from satisfactory watersupply arrangements. Slum residents relied on publicfacilities such as stand posts and boreholes. Long queues atthese water points meant waste of time, loss of work, oreven missing school for girl children who usually fetch waterfor the household.Since 2000, we've improved the lot of over 10,000households in 43 slums. New funding is scheduled from theJapan Bank of International Cooperation (JBIC) to extendthe service to over 300 slums within the next 5 years.
How exactly did the BWSSB improve the urban poor'saccess to safe water?
In a nutshell, we made things easier for them. We reducedthe connection fee from Rs.1850 to Rs. 830 and allowedthem to be paid on an installment basis. We accepted proof of residency instead of proof of land ownership asrequirement for connection. We simplified the proceduresfor connection and issuance of meters. We empowered thecommunity to handle filling up of applications, collection of access charges, and issuance of meters. By 2004, we alsosuccessfully lowered water tariffs.
What was the Social Development Unit's contributionto this work?
Like all water utilities in the country, BWSSB staff aremainly engineers who didn't have the experience nor theperspective to handle the intricate social issues involved inservicing the poor, particularly slum residents. The SDUbrought into the picture this much needed insight. The SDUsuccessfully partnered with NGOs, community basedorganizations and even prominent community members toget the cooperation and trust of the communities. We alsoconvinced BWSSB's engineers and frontline staff to engagewith the poor and adopt flexible strategies for connectingand sustaining the water service. At the end of the day,trust was built between the utility and the communities, andthe latter did not feel like they were being taken for a ride.
How did you reduce the connection fee from Rs. 1850to Rs 830?
We eliminated certain charges which were not required tobe levied on urban poor residents. These included sanitarypoint charges (slum households were only charged 2 pointsas against the normal 6), inspection charges, and 3-monthadvance deposit.
BWSSB lowered connection charges and tariff. Howdid it recover this lost revenue?
By connecting the urban poor, the BWSSB actuallytransformed illegal connections into revenue-yielding ones,bringing in greater revenue for the utility. And once they gottheir legal, individual, and metered connections, householdsstopped relying on public taps, enabling the utility to cutdown on wastages.