The Government of Pakistan has been concerned about theinadequate provision of social services, especially in ruralareas, for it believes that greater investments in suchprojects will stimulate productivity; reduce poverty; andpromote smaller, healthier, and better-educated families.Nationally, the Government has identified low water supplyand sanitation coverage as one of the major issuesconfronting the water supply and sanitation sector. With thehelp of the Punjab Rural Water Supply and SanitationSector Project, the Government sought to bring safedrinking water and sanitation facilities to poor ruralcommunities in Punjab province.The overall goal was to build community water supply anddrainage facilities to reduce poverty and improve quality of life as well as the living conditions of rural communities inPunjab province, where water is scarce and groundwater,brackish.
The project provided safedrinking water and drainagefacilities to about 800,000 peoplethrough simple, low-costsubprojects that used thecommunity-based approach. Theprimary beneficiaries werewomen and children from 335mostly poor and remote villagesin Punjab’s seven prioritydistricts.
It was the first project in Punjabto employ a community-based,demand-driven approach,wherein the local peopleparticipated from the planning through the constructionstage and eventually became fully responsible for operationand maintenance (O&M) costs.Men and women formed community-based organizations(CBOs) to maintain the water supply distribution system,drains, and oxidation ponds, as well as to promote socialdevelopment work and livelihood activities. They solicitedcommunity donations of land—for the construction of pumphouses and oxidation ponds—and earthwork—for pavingstreets and constructing drains. CBO members alsosuccessfully facilitated the collection of tariffs.Community involvement in project planning, design, andimplementation was a key feature of the project. This setthe stage for the CBOs’ proper O&M of the water supply andsanitation schemes. They were trained to supervise theconstruction before the subprojects were implemented.Before the subprojects were handed over to CBOs, theywere trained in efficient O&M, including financialmanagement, technical operations, and water qualitymonitoring.As the primary beneficiaries of the project, women wereencouraged to carry out subprojects, operate and maintainthem, collect tariffs, and evaluate projects as activeparticipants in CBOs and community development units.Community development unit staff and CBOs were mainlyresponsible for community benefit monitoring andevaluation, another key feature of the project. This involvedthe collection of baseline data and information onperformance indicators, data analysis and evaluation, andthe preparation of biannual benefit monitoring andevaluation reports. A Hygiene Education Program also held 4-day seminars ineach village using video and audio clips as well as flip chartsto teach men, women, and schoolchildren about propersanitation and cleanliness. As part of this program, latrineswere also sold for about $12 to be paid in installmentsunder the supervision of CBOs.Monthly user fees ranged from Rs50 to Rs150
for pipedwater and up to Rs20 for gravity-based systems.Community pressure and prompt disconnection of servicesfor nonpayment of accounts generally made tariff collectioneasy.Following the provision of clean water, the number of children enrolled in schools increased and communitymembers donated their labor to expand schools.
Since the project was completed, the availability of waterhas significantly transformed the lives of women and girls inthese communities. They previously spent from 2–6 hours aday gathering water, and an additional 5–8 hours a weekwashing clothes at sources far from their homes andvillages.A survey showed that when relieved of water collection,women become increasingly involved in income generation—the women surveyed said that about 45% of their timesaved is used for income-generating activities. Knowing this,some CBOs have started programs such as needlecraft andhandicraft. One women’s CBO in the north set up a schoolfor girls, employing two female teachers; another providedfinancial support for women to establish a small flour mill.Still another helped set up a corner grocery store in thevillage.Women in Punjab now command an average wage of Rs5 anhour. The monetary value of the time saved could add aboutRs135 to Rs337 monthly to household incomes in theproject area. Relief from the heavy labor of carrying waterhome also gives the women more energy. In many villages,households saved money on medicines as a result of improved health.So far, monitoring of the project has shown impressiveresults, including a more than 90% reduction in reportedwater-related diseases, an average increased householdincome of 24%, and as much as an 80% increase in theschool enrollment of children.
The monitoring report alsonotes a considerable improvement in the local environment(e.g., decreased odors and insects) and fewer sick daysreported throughout the community.