Academic journal article Journal of Management and Public Policy

Changing Policy Paradigm of Drinking Water Service Delivery: An Empirical Investigation in the Context of Bihar, India

Academic journal article Journal of Management and Public Policy

Changing Policy Paradigm of Drinking Water Service Delivery: An Empirical Investigation in the Context of Bihar, India

Article excerpt

Introduction

Safe and clean supply of drinking water has been recognized as important human right. The United Nation in its resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 28th July, 2010 has acknowledged the importance of equitable access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as an integral component of the realization of all human rights (United Nation, 2010). This proposal has left us with two questions, how to make the water available and accessible to the people and who is going to pay for it? However, in the same resolution, there is hint of state's responsibility to promote safe drinking water. Drinking water, though has characteristics of private good, however, in the developing world the drinking water mainly supplied in form of basic service by the state mostly free and through public institutions. However, searching of solution of these questions paves avenue for development discourse which is purely economic. In this context the public institution plays a critical role. Public institutions, as argued by Lal (2010) is not static, the new policy paradigm of drinking water supply advocates for an economic solution. As water is a scarce natural resource, increasingly there are arguments to treat drinking water as an economic good and to be supplied based on demand and impose user charges to ensure its efficient utilization. The Dublin Statement in 1992 advocated recognizing drinking water as an economic good and also argued for participatory management of water services (International Conference on Water and Environment, 1992). In India, there have been changes in the policy paradigm of drinking water supply since 1990s. In India, the Eighth Five Year Plan (1992-97) advocated for treating water as a commodity to be supplied based on effective demand and cost recovery principle and managed by private local organizations. The rightward shift of the approach from supply driven to demand riven to make the system more sustainable through cost recovery and efficient through involving beneficiary in the decision making and management.

Though, drinking water is argued to be treated as economic good, however, determining the price of drinking water, a non-market good possess challenge. Of late, the assessment of price of water, a nonmarket commodity, has received attention of many policy makers. In this context, the Contingent Valuation Method has emerged as a method to determine 'Willingness to Pay' for a good, particularly a non-marketed good. The present paper is an attempt to explore the possibility of user charges for service of piped drinking water in the context of rural Bihar with the help of people's response on 'willingness to pay' for piped drinking water service based on the 'Contingent Valuation Method'. The present study attempts to explore the issue of contingent valuation method in determining willingness to pay for safe drinking water and identify determinants of willingness to pay in the context of rural Bihar with the help of primary survey conducted in four districts in the State.

The penetration of piped drinking water is lowest in Bihar. Only 3.07% households get tap water from treated source and the situation of rural Bihar is worse, as only 1.5% gets treated tap water which is lowest in the country (Government of India, 2011). To upscale the present service requires increasing the investment on drinking water many folds. So the question of who is going to pay for it becomes critical. The draft Bihar Water Policy (Government of Bihar, 2010) argued for community participation in management as well imposition of user charges for drinking water supply. The present study attempts to explore feasibility of the policy decision of imposing user charges with the question of how far the rural people are ready to pay for improved drinking water and share the investment on piped drinking water. Any positive answer can also create avenue for involvement of market forces in service delivery. …

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