Tribune News Service
New Delhi, May 11
The World Bank today signed a $248-million loan agreement for the Punjab Rural Water and Sanitation Sector Improvement Project to help the state improve its delivery of water and sanitation services in rural areas.
According to a World Bank statement, the project aims at providing a minimum of 10 hours of water supply daily, a toilet for all those households without a toilet, sewerage in over 315 villages and supply safe water to over 121 villages. The project will help the government’s water department to reorganise and focus on service delivery.
The loan agreement was signed by Raj Kumar, Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance; Suresh Kumar, Additional Chief Secretary-cum-Principal Secretary, Water Supply and Sanitation, Punjab; and Michael Haney, Operations Adviser, World Bank, India.
The project is expected to directly benefit an estimated 8.47 million rural population in Punjab, including over 4 million female beneficiaries and 2.44 million beneficiaries belonging to the Scheduled Castes. It will also support the water quality affected districts in the state.
The project, which will be implemented over six years, will help reorganise the department of water supply and sanitation to focus on service delivery through minor upgrades for improving efficiency, free house connections, progressively scale up service levels to achieve 100 per cent meter connections for all rural households with at least 10 hours of daily supply with volumetric based charging and encourage toilet use.
These “low-cost and high-impact” activities are expected to benefit women and children who are otherwise responsible for daily water collection and storage.
“Over four million women in Punjab will benefit from this project. They will have access to more reliable and better quality water supply and sanitation facilities in their own households,” said Michael Haney. “The project will reduce the time spent by women in collecting water, which they can now use in other productive ways.”
The project will strengthen water quality monitoring methods. It will finance cost-effective retrofitting of water schemes with engineering solutions to treat arsenic, fluoride, and iron in some 121 villages and construct surface water supply schemes to supply safe drinking water in districts such as Moga and Barnala.
Over 6.25 lakh households in the state still lack toilets. The sanitation component will provide a subsidy to every toilet-less household to construct a toilet coupled with information to trigger the behavioral change necessary to achieve open defecation-free status.
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