Coordinated actions by actors at different levels with effective community engagement are necessary for sustainable rural water supply and management. However, there are limited studies that analyse and reflect on the lack of coordination among different actors and report the practical ground-level challenges confronted at a local level, in order to increase the robustness and sustainability of rural water supply. Hence, this research brings together actors at three different levels—community, local government and local administration to capture their holistic understanding of actions and strategies, and the possible hurdles which may hinder their implementation. A narrative approach is adapted to derive the outcome based on real-life experiences of the respondents. Prioritized actions are mainly found to follow supply-side approach with a complete lack of demand-responsive strategies or actions as well as focus on providing services at a point of time and not over a period. Despite institutional reforms and changes in laws and strategies, prioritized actions are found to be more regulated by corruption, political intentions and social power relations in the study area. A lack of sense of ownership among local community restricts their participation in operation and maintenance of water sources. The struggle to provide the maintenance and major repairs required to keep water supply operational sustainably are well evident in the study area. While financial constraints are perceived to be a significant barrier in the implementation of the actions, technical and natural hurdles are also identified that demonstrates the need for integrated, contextual and well-coordinated strategies and actions to ensure rural water security. The study lays the ground for a paradigm shift in rural water supply and management in India—from a focus on increasing coverage to a focus on quality infrastructure, regular operation and maintenance and proactive monitoring approaches which will prevent from poorly targeted future investments and lessen the subsequent burden on communities.
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The various projects, programmes or initiatives are often cumulatively termed as schemes at different administrative levels.
“Slippage” refers to water supply coverage from ‘fully covered’ households to ‘partially covered’ households to eventually ‘no covered’ households.
Gram Panchayat is the lowest tier in the three-tier system of rural governance in India. The GP or village council covers around 10–12 villages and is headed by Pradhan who is elected through village level elections.
Conversion rate as on 16.4.2018.
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The first author is sincerely thankful to Kyoto University, Japan, for providing the financial support to carry out the study in India. We appreciate the helpful participation of the communities, local leader and local administration in the research survey.
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Basu, M., DasGupta, R., Hashimoto, S. et al. A multi-actor and bottom-up perspective on attaining rural water security: qualitative evidence from India. Environ Dev Sustain 23, 1461–1484 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10668-020-00631-2
- Water security
- Rural water supply
- Community participation
- Local governance