The government of Nepal recently released the Nepal Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene Sector Development Plan (SDP) for the period 2016 – 2030.
The document is primarily aimed at achieving the SDGs and is the culmination of an ongoing consultative effort started in 2013. The SDP encompasses not only WASH, but also IWRM, and suggests a holistic view of handling water management from source to sink, in line with SDG Goal 6.
The SDP delves into details on the governance aspects of WASH, and water management. Within the ambit of governance, water integrity has found a prominent place.
It is difficult to discuss or address the problems of corruption and politics in the country. The fact that the government recognized the importance of tackling accountability issues in the water sector is remarkable.
Nepal is a young democracy still troubled by political turmoil, but with the SDP it has taken strides towards fulfilling the dreams of the Nepalese people.
WIN and Helvetas have been advocating the inclusion of integrity in the SDP for the past three years, under the Swiss Development Cooperation supported Multi-Country Water Integrity Programme (MCWIP).
This effort, primarily led at the country level by Helvetas Nepal office in close collaboration with WaterAid, NEPAD and FEDWASUN, focused on pushing for TAP in the sector policy as critical element of water governance in Nepal. The publication of the document is a major milestone. It is also proof that policy developments favouring integrity are possible and within reach.
Integrity and accountability take a central place in water policy
The SDP states that “Water integrity refers to the adherence of water sector actors and institutions to governance principles of transparency, accountability and participation, based on core values of honesty, equity and professionalism. Integrity, by requiring that public interest be paramount, provides the basis for accountable WASH projects and service delivery.”
The document emphasizes trust, integrity, and accountability, and further adds that for ensuring accountability in WASH services and operation it is necessary that politicians, policy-makers and service providers are transparent and accept responsibility for their actions.
In particular, Chapter 5 on governance emphasizes the rule of law and integrity and suggests a WASH governance framework with accountability as a component.
Chapter 8, which focuses on WASH sector themes, has a comprehensive section on water integrity highlighting the need for both vertical and horizontal accountability and the need for transparent and inclusive processes. It also highlights the communities’ right to WASH.
An honest assessment of remaining challenges, with integrity as key way forward
The sector already has become more inclusive in Nepal. Water Users Committees represent more and more women and marginalized groups. Still, as highlighted in the SDP executive summary, there is room for further improvement in relation to equality and integrity. The disparity in access, inequality in services, and quality of services remain key challenges.
Financial resources are distributed unequally among regions and ensuring greater trust and collaboration to develop shared strategies is also still a challenge. It will now be crucial for the government to ensure that the tenets of the SDP are implemented with transparency and integrity.
WIN welcomes the SDP as a step forward in reaching the SDG targets and will continue to support its partners in Nepal in strengthening water integrity.