Home | Features

 

 

Water and Sanitation, Politics and Power

Walking several kilometres to the nearest toilet; dodging snakes, elephants and sexual advances on the way; drinking murky water from open ponds just because they are closer; ignored/snubbed/harassed by authorities meant to fix the situation…. We are all-too-familiar with these images and stories. We come across them on the television, on computer screens and in newspapers, when the mainstream media decides to visit these people and places once in a while.

What makes the videos below different from, say, news reports broadcast on your local/international news network to mark World Water Day? These videos capture the same stories but have been shot, edited and brought to you by the very people who have to live with little water and distant toilets day-in and day-out. The videos also highlights the role that todays’ easy to handle user friendly smart cameras can help in bringing out stories from any corner of the world much more in real time, adding to value to the overall role and usage of ICT in governance. Further, the videos don't end at highlighting the problem, they become integral tools in bring change to the communities.

Example: “I request all our viewers to call Mr. Bishwanath Samantara, Engineer at our local Water and Sanitation Department on his mobile number 98******** and pressurize him so that residents of Themra village could get more sources of drinking water in their village,” says Abhishek Das as he signs off his story about the 1000 members of his community struggling with the one tubewell they have access to.

These communities, located in western and eastern India, are not trapped in arid environments. There are plenty of water resources that can be developed and tapped for their benefit. These stories reveal that a key barrier to accessing water and sanitation facilities is the lack of accountable, transparent and equitable processes and creeping corruption. At times, it manifests as apathy of government officials and elected representatives. Sometimes it’s a case of class/caste-based discrimination. Often, it is plain greed at play as evidenced by siphoned public funds and demands of bribe.

How do we solve this problem? And who should? At the moment, there are more questions than answers, most of which lie within the realms of politics and power. But a start can be made by letting those that matter the most be heard, through their own stories and not someone else’s.

A bit on the WIN-VV collaboration:

The Water Integrity Network (WIN) started working with Video Volunteers (VV) in 2011 by collaborating on two videos on corruption in water and by jointly presenting in two major events, the WSSCC Global Forum on Hygiene and Sanitation (October 2011, India) and the 15th International Anti-Corruption Conference (November 2012, Brazil) with the aim to highlight the role of participatory video for improved water integrity. The partnership continues in 2013, with 11 videos produced on Water Integrity, Corruption and Governance along with presenting together in the Seminar on ICT to Improve Water Governance in the World Water Week (September 2013, Sweden). 

These stories have been brought to you by Video Volunteers and the Water Integrity Network. For more about their collaborative effort, visit http://www.waterintegritynetwork.net/audio-visual/video

 

Drinking water shortage in Themra village

Themra village (Kalahandi district) in India suffer from acute shortage of drinking water, on account of inadequate supply systems suffering from apathy of the designated government authorities. The amount of water these systems can supply is way less than what the 1000 residents need.

 

 

Bypased by government sanitation schemes

Akshaya Sethi from Karthuta pvillage (Jagatsingpur district, India) lives below the official poverty line and is therefore entitled to support from the local government for building a latrine for his family. However, like 100 other ‘poor’ families in his village, he has been bypassed by the scheme and his family members continue to have a hard time meeting their sanitation needs with minimum dignity. This is especially difficult for women, and especially difficult during the rainy season.

 

 

Lack of toilets, lack of hygiene, loss of dignity

300 people living in a residential block within an urban area in western India (Limbdi, Gujarat state) lack access to toilets close to their home. And this is something they are entitled to, under a government scheme. Nevertheless, they are forced to walk long distances to the closest public toilets, where they face various forms of abuse from anti-social elements.  Apart from the inconvenience and the loss of dignity, this has led to a number of diseases within this community.

These people have organized themselves and demonstrated in front of civic authorities. But that wasn’t sufficient; their situation has not improved the least bit.

 

 

Sanitation: Government apathy in Padamkesharipur village

In an all-too-familiar story, a 2000-member rural community in Padmakesharipur village (Orissa state, India) lacks access to basic sanitation. They are forced to relieve themselves in the open, in ways that are inconvenient, unhygienic and undignified. 

There isn’t a lack of government schemes and grievance redressal mechanisms. Its just that they don’t work. Over the years, the villagers have made several complaints to local politicians and public officials and have been promised proper action each time. But nothing has been done so far.


 

Rural drinking water system: Lack of accountability of public engineers

In Padamkesharipur village in India, people have to walk 3 kilometres just to fetch drinking water for their daily needs. Those who can’t make the trip use local non-improved sources such as open ponds/ditches. There are public systems there that do not work. It is the responsibility of government engineers to fix them and oversee their upkeep. The residents have complained and petitioned them--- and higher authorities—but to no avail.

 

 

  • Water and Peace

     The conference presented and discussed the role of negotiation, mediation and conciliation in evidence-based cases of water diplomacy. Experts shared perspectives and solutions focused oncreating a better understanding water diplomacy capabilities, particularly among water resource specialists and diplomatsinitiating an international hub of experts to better resolve water related conflictsformul...

    Read more

  • How Serious Gaming? Addive Value to Water Management

    How Serious Gaming?Adding value to water managementSymposium organised by UNESCO-IHE, Delft The Netherlands. November 8, 2013Serious games are based on simulations of real-world processes. They ARE a lot of fun, even though they are designed primarily for solving real-world problems, training and education. At this symposium, some leading thinkers and practiotioners from this exciting new field sh...

    Read more

  • Water and Waste Water treatment technologies to know about

    by Alan KahnWith over seven billion people on the planet in need of clean water that is safe for drinking, agriculture and sanitation, our world is rapidly entering into water crises and though advances are being made in water treatment technologies, it is still estimated that by 2025, roughly 50% of the planet’s population will suffer from water shortage.Just a half a century ago it was widely...

    Read more

  • Soil Salinity in Harran Plain, Turkey

    by Şükrü EsinSoil salinity is a serious environmental problem affecting 20% of total irrigated land across the globe.Harran Plain has the biggest groundwater reserve in the Middle-East and the largest irrigation field in the Southeastern Anatolia Project region which is 3700 square km  drainage area, 1500 square km plain area and 476000 hectares of irrigation area. Crop pattern is very poor:...

    Read more

  • Sustainable Land Management in Sub-Saharan Africa

    Helping small farmers protect their landby William Critchley,  VU University. Amsterdam, The NetherlandsFailed soil conservation schemes, based on ‘command and control’ methods, littered the African landscape in the 1960s and 1970s. A changed approach was badly needed. As a response, in the 1980s, a few development agencies began working with farmers’ groups using a new, participatory appr...

    Read more

  • Seeding Clouds, Harvesting Rain: Beware of the Hype

    posted December 16, 2012In public imagination, cloud-seeding has only recently crossed over from the realm of science fiction to hi-tech. However, the first time a cloud was ‘seeded’ to produce snow was as long back as 1946.The process involves introducing chemicals such as Silver Iodide or Dry Ice in clouds that contain water colder than zero degrees Celsius. These chemicals catalyze the proc...

    Read more

  • ; margin-top: 5px; margin-bottom: 5px;

    How the British did it better

    by Usman QaziIn a relentless pursuit of growth and development, the Pakistani state has ignored colonial-era strategies—that took natural risks, like monsoon floods, into consideration.The Indus River is unique in more ways than one. If we ignore this, we do so at our own peril. In the last three decades, or more, the Pakistani state has been putting aside concerns for the uniqueness of our riv...

    Read more

  • A Brave New Groundwater World

    posted by Frank van Steenbergen October 22, 2012Since Lester Brown’s seminal book “Who will feed China?” many eyes have been watching the Achilles heel of global agriculture: the over-pumping of ground water in the world’s two largest countries, China and India.The dry northern plains of China produce half of the country’s wheat and one-third of its corn. They do so by using groundwater ...

    Read more

  • "/

    Himalayan Glaciers: Transboundary tensions set to rise even as climate fears dial down

    Himalayas as seen from Garhwal, northern India. (Image courtesy: GoGarhwal)The Himalayan mountain range is also referred to as the world’s third pole. They are covered with over 15,000 glaciers: the highest concentration outside the Arctic and the Antarctic. Collectively, they hold about 12,000 cubic kilometers of freshwater that feed large river systems such as the Ganges and the Indus.In 2007,...

    Read more

  • Groundwater: are there still areas of plenty?

    At the global level, agricultural water use is discussed mainly in terms of scarcity and the need for efficiency. Of the 3.8 billion tones of freshwater withdrawn for human use, 70% is used for agriculture. This lion’s share puts agriculture under great scrutiny, and rightly so.However, the broad strokes of the global scarcity-centric discourse often muffle regional realities, leading to flawed ...

    Read more