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Disclosure Legislation to Improve Water and Sanitation

Premila Narareth Satyanand

Requiring Indian Utilities to Report: Harnessing disclosure legislation to improve water and sanitation services

By contrasting the reporting requirements of the Indian water and sanitation utilities with other international experiences, this paper calls attention to the information vacuum that pervades urban WatSan uitility sector in India. The lack of benchmarking of key performance and service quality indicators leads to poor planning and management of the utilities and the sector, and the absence of reports in the public domain on service quality leaves the citizen groups, even when severely inconvenienced by poor services, with little knowledge of the specific causes of the failures and hence of particular ways in which they could apply external pressures.

To address these problems, the paper argues for a regular public reporting of key performance indicators by the WatSan utilities in India. It elaborates on how the policy behind these reforms could be operationalized. Fortunately, the beginnings of the legal and administrative framework within which these reforms can be taken up in India are already in place. The ‘Right to Information Act’ (RTI) and the ‘Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission’ (JNNURM) – both introduced in 2005 –present an unparalleled opportunity to establish an ongoing system of mandatory public reporting and citizens’ engagement by Indian water and sanitation utilities.However, if the RTI and the JNNURM were to serve this purpose, some key issues relating to scope and enforceability would need to be addressed. The paper identifies these issues and suggests practical ways in which they can be addressed.It also argues for and suggests relevant, clear and concise indicators for maximum impact.

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