For most of us, 30 minutes can be spent checking e-mails or chatting over a cup of coffee; but for some residents of Madhya Pradesh in India, 30 minutes is the only time to get enough water for the day.
Madhya Pradesh, India’s eighth most urbanised state and with a faster urbanization pace (2.57% per year) than the national average (2.45% per year), counts inadequate water supply as one of its most pressing issues. Many urban areas in the state do not have piped water supply, and only a fraction has access to wastewater treatment and sanitation systems.
This gap in the water supply provision is what the Madhya Pradesh Urban Services Improvement Project (MPUSIP) aims to address. This ADB project adopts a sector approach for developing sustainable, inclusive, and climate-resilient water supply in 64 small- and medium-sized towns, and integrated water and sewerage infrastructure in two tourist towns of national cultural significance: Rajnagar and Khajuraho, which is known for its many ancient temples.
Poor urban households are shaped by their lack of access to water. Once the Madhya Pradesh project is completed, women will only need 10 minutes to acquire needed water, down from 55 minutes in 2015.
There’s additional focus on these tourist destinations since they suffer more given the volume of visitors sharing the meager urban services with existing residents. Hence, when these towns are improved, economic benefits will increase. The city becomes attractive, drawing more tourists.
Another key consideration in the design of the project is capacity building at the local level to sustain project outputs. To resolve this, MPUSIP adapted performance-based design-build-operate contracting schemes with 10-year operation and maintenance (O&M) periods. This scheme will help improve construction quality and mitigate the urban local bodies’ (ULBs) weak O&M capacity by providing continuity in system operation.
In India, the people’s lives – especially women – and income opportunities in poor urban households are profoundly shaped by their lack of access to water, and the women of Madhya Pradesh are no exception to this. In a 2015 survey, the average time women spent fetching water was 55 minutes. By the end of MPUSIP in 2023, this amount of time is expected to be just 10 minutes. Time saved will enable them to spend more time on more important social and economic activities, whether earning additional income or rearing children.
Girls are also affected by lack of water and sanitation, specifically schools without toilets. Many stop going to school once they get their period. Such a situation may be unimaginable in more developed countries but this is a sad reality in India. For this project, the gender component will include preparing a behavior change communication plan that will target 50% women and girls participation and raising awareness on hygiene practices, water conservation, and water use efficiency in all 64 project towns.
Overall, the project will contribute to poverty reduction through infrastructure development, improving quality of life, reducing morbidity and health-related expenditures, and stimulating economic growth. It will increase access to continuous good-quality water supply to 300,000 households or about 90% of the total area covered by the project, as well as improve sanitation and drainage systems to benefit low-income households in the two culturally-symbolic towns.