Article Review: Public Provisioning in Water and Sanitation Study of Urban Slums in Delhi

Sandhya S Mani of S4 MSW reviewing the article Public Provisioning in Water and Sanitation Study of Urban Slums in Delhi.

Photo: Vishnuraj.R (S4 MSW)

The original article can be read here  http://www.epw.in/commentary/public-provisioning-water-and-sanitation.html?ip_login_no_cache=a2a187fafd12bd81b87a06769a7ece2a

This is one of the articles which makes me think about the reachability of the basic services or infrastructure to the people living in slums. The article narrates the experiences and practices captured from two resettlement colonies in Delhi. This article mainly deals with the factors that obstruct the delivery of essential services like drinking water and sanitation to the people living in slums Delhi. The article also throws light on the present condition of slums in Delhi. Let me try to relate it with what I have seen in Mumbai Slums.

There is similarity in the picture of slums in Mumbai with that of the condition of slums in Delhi as described in this article. The article starts with an alarming statistics that since 2001 census, the number of people living in notified and non-notified areas or slum like habitations is considerably increasing. In Mumbai also the people living in slums are increasing day after day. Even if the habitations are crammed, I could see that the people make use of every nook and corner for various domestic purposes. The article also highlights that the expanding population is exerting enormous pressure over the basic infrastructure. I would try to capture some common features of slums from my experience after visiting Mumbai slums. Overcrowding, unhygienic ambience, poverty, unemployment, drop out students, poor housing, poor water supply, few livelihood options can be called as a few features of slums. The author raises a significant question that whether Delhi’s budget is responsive to water and sanitation services in slums. The term budget should not be considered as a mere statement of expenditure and revenue but it should be described as an indication of policy priorities flagged by government. The article attempts to capture the quantum of budgetary outlay for water and sanitation in Delhi’s slums under the Eleventh Five Year Plan. The author describes that the budget allocation is inadequate and sometimes the funds remain unused and unspent. In the Eleventh Five Year Plan, Rs. 73 Crore was allotted for drinking water services but after that it was reported nearly Rs. 20 Crore remain underutilized, which was a miserable account. The Delhi Jal Board allocated Rs. 4.8 Crore in 2011-12 which was raised to 5 crore in 2012-13. The author raises the question that whether the amount is sufficient to provide drinking water to nearly 1058 and 2075 non notified slums in Delhi. The author also states that for the last five annual budgets of Eleventh Five Year Plan, there was no financial support for providing additional support for additional facilities.

The article narrates about the nodal agencies that are required to provide sanitation facilities in Delhi’s slums. Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board implements a plan called “Grants in Aid to Slums for the Construction of Pay and Use Jan Suvidha Complexes” or community toilet complexes. This program tackles the problem of open defecation by slum dwellers but the amount allocated to this plan is woefully small. The money allotted for this is not sufficient for the operation and maintenance of the community toilets. The author presents the budget analysis of Eleventh Plan. It conveys that the overall budget of for water and sanitation in urban slums in Delhi is grossly insufficient, unresponsive and out of sync with the developmental fact. Planning, budgeting and implementation of the water and sanitation services in Delhi is managed by multiple agencies like Municipal Corporation of Delhi, New Delhi Municipal Council etc. through interviews with the officials, the author reveals that there is a high degree of centralization in planning and expenditure. The implementing agencies ignore the community participation and the budgetary process lacks transparency and is devoid of accountability. There are various constrains in the context of service delivery in the slums which the author understood through interaction with the officials. The problems of institutional convergences and the issue of ownership among implementing agencies are significant roadblocks. The multiplicity of agencies handling different components of water and sanitation leads to lack of accountability and there is no coordination between the agencies. Staff constraint is another serious issue. The women in the slums have to face unsafe and unhygienic toilets because of the shortage of sanitation staff. The poor quality of construction and faulty design of community toilets has been reported as one of the findings from the field. Apart from that the toilets don’t have any roofs putting the women in a vulnerable position. There is a user fee of Rs.2 and it is a question that whether this is affordable to the poor people.

The author concludes that cities are the engines of economic growth but if the policies did not work in an effective manner, cities may degenerate and cause a negative effect on the lives of the people. There should be an improved governance structure and process at the institutional level so that the policy benefits reach the end users or beneficiaries. Thus, the benefits of policies should reach the people at grass root level.

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