Tuesday, 4 August 2009

WatSan in Pakistan

A really good, insightful paper has just been published in Water Policy: Institutional challenges in water supply and sanitation in Pakistan: revealing the gap between national policy and local experience, by Bahadar Nawab and Ingrid L. P. Nyborg. Here’s a bit of what they say:

“... making policies, setting goals and objectives, passing legislation and restructuring administration are relatively easy tasks. The larger problem in developing countries lies in the implementation of policy, mainly due to the lack of capabilities, intention and commitment of the governments and scarcity of financial and skilled human resources. Developing countries, including Pakistan, have until now focused more on policy formulation and legislation. But these policies usually lack capable administration, and efficient and legitimate regulatory instruments which are pre-requisites for effective implementation of policy. Local people usually question and even resist the experts’ formulated policies and rules, as they often clash with their daily practices, socio-cultural values systems and economic considerations. In developing countries, therefore, policies are made, funds are allocated and projects are undertaken but most of those countries are still not on track to meet the UN goal on water supply, especially on sanitation.”

It all sounds depressingly familiar. They conclude:

“The government, therefore, needs to focus on innovative and alternative approaches for handling water supply and sanitation issues and must consider local and traditional institutions and involve all actors. A much better outcome can be achieved through cognitive and normative instruments and adopting a dialogue and negotiation approach with local people. In the study villages, local people otherwise showing a blind eye to their poor sanitation situation got motivated through discussions within the framework of their traditional norms, values and institutions. Organized debates on the sanitation issue where almost every household could participate and put forward ideas could craft innovative water supply and sanitation option contrary to the government traditional supply driven and service provider approach. Local people could be easily convinced and willing to change their water and sanitation practices by practically demonstrating to them scientific findings of the links between practice and possible negative health outcomes. Therefore it is important to bring scientific words into local dictum and making it everyone’s language.

The current move of water and sanitation reforms in developing countries is encouraging. However, to make realistic water and sanitation policies, we need to understand water and sanitation problem in a holistic way and then build on local men and women’s practices, norms, values, and institutions and try to make their existing practices safer rather than imposing on them new regulations and foreign solutions. The respective governments and departments need to create an enabling environment and find legitimate instruments for the implementation of water and sanitation policies.”

Really good for rural sanitation, especially Community-led Total Sanitation. The approach might need a bit of tweaking in periurban areas, but that shouldn’t prove too difficult.