Sustainable Rural Water Supply Schemes and Sri Lankan Community-based Organisations

AuthorDarshani Ilangangedara,Lalith Wijesinghe,L.H.P. Gunarathne
Published date01 September 2019
Date01 September 2019
Subject MatterArticles
Sustainable Rural Water
Supply Schemes and
Sri Lankan Community-
based Organisations
Lalith Wijesinghe1
Darshani Ilangangedara1
L.H.P. Gunarathne2
With a majority of the world’s poor living in rural areas, focusing on rural water
supply, sanitation and hygiene is necessary if Millennium Development Goals
are to be achieved. Therefore, donor agencies invest a significant amount of
funds on rural water and sanitation projects. These rural water supply schemes
(RWSS) are usually proposed to be managed by community-based organisations.
Therefore, sustainability has become a widely discussed aspect in the agendas of
programmes related to these projects. Benefits can be obtained by developing
a framework for measuring sustainability and identifying the factors affecting the
sustainability of RWSS. This can help to predict sustainability before implementing
projects and to take necessary actions to enhance the sustainability during the
project implementation stage itself. This conceptual and practice-based study
was carried out to develop a framework to assess and compare the sustainability
of community-based RWSS and to identify the factors affecting them.
Sustainability, rural water supply schemes, community-based organisations, water
supply, donor funding
Indian Journal of Public
65(3) 702–717, 2019
© 2019 IIPA
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/0019556119840924
1 National Water Supply and Drainage Board, Sri Lanka.
2 Department of Agricultural Economics and Business Management, University of Peradeniya,
Sri Lanka.
Corresponding author:
Lalith Wijesinghe, National Water Supply and Drainage Board, Galle Road, Ratmalana, Sri Lanka.
Wijesinghe et al. 703
More than 70 per cent of the world’s population living in rural areas in developing
countries do not have access to adequate water supply and sanitation facilities.
The lack of access to proper drinking water directly relates to health, hygiene and
income opportunities of rural communities in developing countries. With the 70
per cent of the world poor living in rural areas, focusing on rural water supply,
sanitation and hygiene is necessary if Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
are to be achieved (World Bank, 2004). In the context of developing countries,
most donors give a helping hand to improve the hygiene of the rural folk by pro-
viding adequate drinking water facilities. The rural water supply schemes (RWSS)
are usually proposed to be managed by community-based organisations (CBOs).
However, the challenge facing the sector today is how to scale up these experiences
in order to meet the target of the MDGs. Increased funding is clearly needed, but
it will not meet the challenges. Client capacity to ensure the sustainability of
investments is equally important as evident from the experience of many failures
of RWSS during the past two decades (World Bank, 2004).
The sustainability of a water supply scheme is defined as the maintenance of an
acceptable level of services throughout the design life of the water supply system
(Mimrose, Gunawardena & Nayakakorala, 2011). According to Kruijf (2005), a
water and sanitation service is sustainable when it is functioning well and being
used; it is able to deliver an appropriate level of benefits (quality, quantity, con-
venience, continuity and health) to all; it continues to function over a prolonged
period of time; its management is institutionalised and its operation, maintenance,
administrative and replacement costs are recovered at the local level; it can be
operated and maintained at local level with limited but feasible external support
and it does not affect the environment negatively. After the project completion,
the responsibility for management and ownership is given to the community.
It has been identified that some projects become noticeably unsuccessful, even
without any technical failures, while others have achieved their targets without
facing much difficulties (Mimrose et al., 2011).
Sri Lankan RWSS Project
The RWSS project which is the focus of this paper involved six rural districts in
Sri Lanka, namely, Aanuradhapura, Puttalam, Kegalle, Hambantota, Kaluthara
and Monaragala. It was funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The
project commenced in June 1999 and was expected to be completed within the
original project duration of six years. However, the project continued for a longer
period than expected, and all project activities were wound up only at the end of
April 2008. The project benefits included small town and village pipe-borne water
supply schemes, common and individual shallow dug wells, common tube wells,
individual rain water harvesting tanks, sanitation facilities, environmental pro-
grammes and hygiene education programmes which were implemented using a
participatory approach.

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