Tuesday, 26 January 2016

A Case Story on the webpage of  HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation Nepal

Water Use Master Plan a management instrument


The Local Self-Governance Act 1999 and regulation provide a framework for local development and the legal framework has envisaged the Village Development Committee to coordinate local development planning and effective implementation of development activities. The underpinning of the devolution of governance to Village Development Committee is to augment participatory planning and decision making to improve local infrastructure and delivery of quality public services.
The democratically elected Village Development Committee is the lowest government institution and a primary institution to conduct the development activities and is responsible to produce periodic and annual development plans. However, since 2002 Village Development Committees are vacant with the democratically elected members’ means that they rely heavily on the secretaries appointed by the government. United Nation Development Programme, 2009 in its Assessment of Village Development Committee Governance and the Use of Block Grants explains “secretaries are over-burdened and most lack facilities and staff to assist them” (Inlogos, 2009).

The United Nation Development Programme, 2009 study indicates most of the Village Development Committees “carried out planning and project prioritisation in a haphazard way” participatory planning was by- passed and beneficiaries were the silent observers. The Village Development Committees were conducting planning by “only making public their annual budgets and programmes and no other important decisions”.
Bharat Karki, a teacher and resident of Mahankal -1 recalls the past village development committee planning “group of people used to demonstrate political power and weapon power to threaten their own local people for the allocation of budget in the interest of particular group without considering the real needs of others” he himself bullied during the council with backing from his group members just to allocate Fifty thousand rupees for water irrigation scheme in his community. He realizes the pity of such huge energy that was wasted to obtain so less resource.
Local institutions follow planning process; however they are elucidated as weak institutions for different reasons: i) No elected Village Development Committee, ii) Usurp of power by strong community leaders, lack of transparency and accountability, iii) Lacks to ensure consultative and transformative mode of participation.
External support to village development committee and Local Water Use Master Plan

To strengthen the role of local institutions and augment sustainable development external agencies (both government and non-government) are supporting local institutions through different projects; in an integrated planning approach or standalone project approach.
Water Resources Management Programme of HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation, Nepal and Rural Water Resources Management Programme supported by Government of Finland have been supporting Village Development Committee in an integrated approach for water planning. Participatory Local water use master plan process is used to bring the water priorities of locals of a concerned Village Development Committee. Both the projects support the concerned Village Development Committee for the realization of priorities of Water Use Master Plan.
“Building Effective Water Governance in Asian Highlands” a research project up scaled the concept of local Water Use Master Plan in a bit different way in four Village Development Committees of Melamchi watershed. The difference refers; the project supports local water use master plan as a management instrument for the local institution but it does not support for the realization of priorities of Water Use Master Plan.
Climate change and hydrological information from scientific community and local resource information from locals are deemed essential for dialogue on adaptation and water resources management. The goal of Building effective water governance research project in Melamchi watershed is to move beyond the sharing of data and knowledge on climate change impacts on water resources to building greater appreciation for the interests that different stakeholders hold. It envisions the concept of prioritizing water needs and adaptation to adverse impact of climate change builds on enough information required for participatory decision making. Information (scientific and local) enhances institution (Dialogue, negotiation, equity principles) building. Strengthened institutional capacities will augment better management of resources for the livelihood improvements which will lead to better governance. The project implemented series of dialogues at local level with the aim to assist local communities to develop local water management plan. It also conducted another model of dialogue focused on school children and teachers with the aim to increase literacy on climate change and water management through classroom materials, and video materials development.
Melamchi Watershed
Melamchi watershed embraces eight Village Development Committees in its catchment and promises to endure the thirst of 2.5 million people of Kathmandu Valley. Inter basin water transfer of 170,000 M3 /day (Bhattarai, Pant, & Molden, 2002) or 170 million litres per day water out of the Melamchi River to Kathmandu city is the planned diversion of water of Melamchi water supply project. The water transfer project will impose almost nil survival threat in drinking requirements of the watershed community. It would benefit city people and the opportunity cost of diversion would be mostly borne by rural community (Bhattarai et al., 2002) of Melamchi watershed. The resettlement action plan, social upliftment programme and environment management plan brought by the water transfer project does indicate compensation to rural community somehow in line to compensate the locals of Melamchi watershed.
Mahankal Village Development Committee and Water Use Master Plan
Out of eight Village Development Committees of Melamchi watershed Mahankal Village Development Committee is one of them. Besides the Village Development Committee, the social upliftment programme of the Melamchi water supply project is active to support the locals of Mahankal Village Development Committee. The Village Development Committee completed its Water Use Master Plan process in December 2013. However, the research project did not supported for the realization of priorities of Water Use Master Plan and faced complaints and criticisms from the locals; for only advocating owning and marketing the water use master plan as a tool to attract fund for the realization of priorities.
The scenario changed once the Water Use Master Plan helped the Village Development Committee to build consensus on allocation of acquired budget from the central government.

“We were convinced that water use master plan could be fruitful in managing the resources in equitable and efficient way once we were successful to settle the conflicts and disputes on the allocation of 27 million rupees acquired from the central government in May 2014, this decision enabled us to receive the first instalment of 0.8 million rupees and the work is in progress to implement the first priority of drinking water project. Water use master plan has helped to secure the implementation of priorities of poor and marginalised groups that came in the planning process” Binod Khadka, secretary; Mahankal Village Development Committee.
Bharat Karki the same person who recalls bullying in the council explains” All actors in the Village Development Committee agreed to implement the project as directed by the Water Use Master Plan. We observed in Water Use Master Plan document that Chitre and Pipse of ward-4 are the most deprived communities for water supply, so we selected it as first site for implementation; as a result water collection tank has already been completed with the first instalment received.”

The planning process of water use master plan is backed by gender equality and social inclusion (Rautanen & White, 2013). Locals are the best knowledgeable on their problems, the Mahankal case indicates scientific information helps the local to visualise their local problems from different perspectives. Information allowed avoiding positioning, bringing interest augmenting integrative negotiation in the dialogue process. The Water Use Master Plan process supported to assume the roles and responsibilities of individuals, political groups, Village Development Committee; this creates accountability among each other which in turn helps to solve local problems. Communities address certain problems (Bowles & Gintis, 2002) which is difficult to handle by markets and governments or individuals acting alone; thus communities are part of good governance. Ensuring Participation reduces the dependency (Van Koppen, Rojas, & Skielboe, 2012), this is very true in the Mahankal case as the Village Development Committee is not dependent on support organization to realise the priorities of its Water Use Master Plan , this has also addressed a problem of project failure beyond project duration. A self-mechanism establishment is underway heading better governance in the water sector.

Contributor: Bikram Rana

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