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From Flint, MI to Latur, India- How accountability can aid sustainable water management

May 3, 2016

Berlin-based Water Integrity Network (WIN) released a report in March on global water and sanitation status equivalent to the Panama Papers, wherein they allege that universal access to water and sanitation requires more transparency and accountability.

Clean, safe water will remain out of reach for more than a billion people and billions of investment dollars will be lost if government leaders, utilities, and investors do not stem corruption in the global water industry, says the report.

Awareness about the misconduct that affects

  • water delivery systems,
  • infrastructure projects, and
  • policy

has grown over the past decade, but there is little indication that levels of corruption have declined, the report found.

Moreover, corruption occurs at all levels of government and in private businesses. It can take many forms, from bribes paid to acquire water service, to lax enforcement of pollution laws, to the misuse of funds earmarked for water system improvements.

Children, women and poor are the most vulnerable groups when it comes to bearing the brunt of lack of transparency and inadequate water quantity and quality.

India has more than 300 million people, who lack access to potable water and sanitation services. The recent crisis in Latur, in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, has caught everyone’s attention.  In the US, hundreds and thousands of children are prone to water borne diseases in the states of MI and NJ, all thanks to our aging infrastructure.

“A major area of concern is in the planning and construction of infrastructure, much of which is vitally needed to provide water services, irrigation and hydropower for millions of people,” says the author. “However, small- and large-scale projects alike require careful scrutiny in their planning and delivery. In some cases data has been misused to justify the construction of prestige projects that never achieve their aims or value for money. In other cases communities displaced by large-scale dams have been cheated out of their compensation. In a project in Pakistan, it is estimated that 80 per cent of compensation went to bogus owners.” In Nepal, a recent report stated that one year ago, the first of two massive earthquakes ripped through, killing more than 8,000 people. Some $4 billion of assistance was pledged to the rebuilding effort, but political gridlock and corruption have left the displaced survivors to largely fend for themselves. WASH is one of the prominent issues facing the effected population.

Some international development organizations and businesses have already taken steps to reduce corruption in the projects that they finance or construct.  To bridge the gap, the report offers three recommendations:

1. Coordinate and involve all branches of civil society, the private sector, legislators, regulators, the judicial system, and prominent political and institutional leaders to reform water governance and commit to reducing corruption.

2. Collect data on the extent of existing corruption, as well as on the economic and social consequences of that corruption.

3. Develop transparency, hold decision makers accountable, include all relevant parties in decisions about water projects, and strengthen laws and regulations against corruption.

“We now know what the issues are in relation to corruption in the water sector,” the report concludes. “These need to be addressed systematically, politically, professionally – and urgently. The time has come to act. We must no longer allow corruption to flourish and integrity to be undermined.”

This article has been adapted from the original article that was published in the circle of blue.
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