Jalanidhi is acclaimed as the most effective of all rural water supply schemes ever implemented in India. More than 3500 water supply schemes have been completed under Jalanidhi in Kerala. Following the Olavanna model of participatory approach, Jalanidhi has attained an efficiency of more than 90% on the fund spent on the project.
To understand the success of the project, it is necessary to understand the philosophy behind this.
1. Demand driven approach - The Project will be introduced only in areas where interested groups of people show their willingness to participate in the project and abide by the conditions of cost-sharing. The group then gets a legal entity by registering themselves and only then proceeds with the rest of the planning.
2. Cost sharing - To ensure stake holding of the project, 15% of the capital costs should be borne by the beneficiary community. Grama Panchayath shall bear 10% and 75% is shared by the Govt.
3. Cost Recovery - The Beneficiary Groups themselves meet 100% of the recurring costs of operations and maintenance. This lightens the burden on the state exchequer, thereby helping the Govt. to utilise this money for other priority needs like in the health sector.
4. Integrated Approach - The objective of the projects is sustainability in supply of safe drinking water, source, operation/maintenance and quality of water which are met through well-integrated components. Sustainability of source is ensured through point-source recharge measures. Quality is ascertained through a mix of sanitation & hygiene promotion and provision of infrastructure like latrines, compost pits, drainage etc. Sustainability of system is ensured through community empowerment, capacity building, women empowerment and social mobilization.
5. Pro-Poor Approach - Special efforts have been taken in the project design to include the poor and vulnerable while selecting the user groups. The project has been so designed to incorporate the beneficiary contribution of 15% of capital costs either through cash or in kind, as labor. Intra-group subsidization and even inter- group subsidization is permitted at the behest of and under the total responsibility of the beneficiary groups. Thrift & Credit schemes are promoted in the Beneficiary Groups as "Self Help Groups" which are operated by the women of that group.
6. Women Development Initiatives - Women are the most affected both directly and indirectly, during water shortages. The project makes conscious efforts to mainstream the women users in the planning and decision-making activities. Apart from this, they are also encouraged to form "Thrift & Credit Groups" to help them make the payments towards the recurring expenditures of the water supply system. Income generation activities are also designed in the project where groups of women are given financial assistance and skill development training to start viable micro- enterprises of their choice.
7. Community Empowerment - Capacity building and equipping the community to operate the project is a major thrust area of this project as this is planned, designed, implemented, owned, and operated by the users themselves. This will not only ensure the involvement of the people but will also chart a new path to community- based approach for meeting any local needs.
8. Community Contracting - The users themselves are fully involved in all the activities right from identifying their sources, deciding on the technology to be utilised, community contracting and implementation till the operations and maintenance aspects of the schemes. All contracting of goods, works, and services will be done at the user level itself for which adequate training will be provided and guidelines made available.
9. Utilization of available resources - The Schemes already operational in these project areas, will also be rehabilitated, and handed over to the User groups. This will ensure efficient utilization of investments made.
10. Dovetailing with Decentralised Planning - This project will be operationalised through the Grama Panchayaths and the beneficiary groups, thereby acknowledging and strengthening the efforts of decentralised planning in Kerala.
One of the major driving forces behind this project was the committed people who supported this initiative from KRWSA district project management units and the support organisations. The project was successful even in tribal hamlets of Attapady where contribution to the scheme was collected as labour through trenching activities.
The project has eliminated corruption through community participation and transparency in each steps of the project. The community had opportunity to involve in procurement, material selection, material testing and quality monitoring thereby increasing transparency and accountability of the project. Initial and final estimates are discussed within the community, including the approved rates and specifications.
Community involvement has also accelerated the hygiene and sanitation drive in rural areas. Bulk purchases and supporting organisations negotiation skills have helped cost effective latrine constructions at many places including tribal hamlets. Locally available materials and skill have been effectively utilised to reduce the superstructure cost. Tribes have made use of bamboo and mud which are readily available in these areas.
The project has also executed many rain water harvesting structures where these are suitable enough for sustainable drinking water supply. Ferro-cement structures have enabled cost effective construction of rain water storage tanks. Support organisations like SEUF have been instrumental in popularizing ferro-cement structures and its construction by providing trainings and support.
The project has thus shown that if empowered the community can plan, design, construct and operate water supply schemes sustainably.