Right to Water and Sanitation

Forum and WaterAid India together had taken a new initiative for preparing for a campaign around the Right to Water and Sanitation (RTWS) in India. This was a three year project and the Forum was mainly acting as a knowledge partner in the initiative.

If the RTWS has to become a legally enforceable and justiciable right, it has to be accepted as a right guaranteed in the Constitution. Establishing such a right is a long drawn out process and a campaign for such a right requires a change of mindsets, new understanding and a variety of skills and inputs from a variety of organisations. Forum was playing the role of knowledge generation, dissemination, capacity building and policy dialogue. Thus the broader objectives of this theme were,

  1. to help articulate the content around RTWS
  2. to take up dissemination and outreach as a two-way learning process
  3. to build up a social consensus around RTWS and its content
  4. to help build up a preparatory campaign around this demand

Over a period of three years of the project, Forum and WaterAid have been working together to fulfil the above stated objectives.

Since the early 1990s, and more significantly over the last 10 years, the water sector discourse has been drastically changing in India and even worldwide. The thrust seems to be shifting to managing water through smart governance with institutions and pricing becoming the key words. The state has moved away from the earlier largely techno-centric approach for water provision to new sector and institutional reforms that involve creation of water entitlements and building partnerships between users and private interests. There is a need to unpack the process of reform both at the conceptual/theoretical level and also the way it is unfolding on the ground in the urban and the rural areas through the normative lens of sustainability, equity and democratisation and the RTWS discourse.

Based on Forum’s previous work, one of the major tasks, concerning the RTWS initiative was to build a broad consensus on the concept of RTWS amongst NGOs, CSOs, as well as politicians, bureaucrats, academics and media persons through awareness. The second task was articulating the content of RTWS that will help build such a consensus from the presently divergent views. The Forum did this by looking at RTWS from an integrated perspective, setting it in the context of specific characteristics of water, defining needs and demands, understanding the institutional working mechanism and thereby coming up with a model based on the principles of equity and sustainability. The framework was shared with a large number of people through the medium of state and regional workshops, covering the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, the semi-arid regions of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, the hilly terrain of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, the North-east region of India and the flood prone areas of Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and Jammu-Kashmir. The workshops help to articulate the RTWS content from the perspective of different geographical and agro-climatic conditions, socio-cultural variations and their specific issues.
Following reports and policy briefs were produced during the project period and all these can be found in detail in the resource section

  1. Right to Water in India: Privileging water for basic needs
  2. Conflicts around Domestic Water and Sanitation: Cases, Issues and Prospects
  3. Drinking Water and Sanitation in Kerala: A Situation Analysis
  4. Reform Initiatives in Domestic Water and Sanitation in India
  5. Right to Sanitation: Position Paper of Right to Sanitation Campaign in India (Policy brief)
  6. City Makers and WASH: Towards a Caring city (Policy brief)
  7. Sanitation Rights and Needs of Persons with Disabilities (Policy brief)
  8. Adivasis and Right to Sanitation (Policy brief)
  9. Right to Sanitation: A Gender Perspective (Policy brief)
  10. Dalits and Right to Sanitation (Policy brief)