Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Vijayawada Win-Win

In India, there is no municipality which provides 24/7 running water to the public. In fact, most people do not even have a connection to the water line in their home. Instead, people both below and above the poverty line (~$1 per person per day) go to a public stand post (PSP) where the water is on for an hour or two a day. There, they fill up 20 liter containers and carry them to their homes. The water at these PSPs is free. Today, I went to a community below the poverty line which recently received household connections. Before her family received a household connection, Aditya would have to carry water from the PSP like this:

The water would be stored in containers until needed for use:
Her family lives on the side of a hill, so to get to the PSP, she’d have to go up and down this staircase:

To give you a sense of how long the staircase is, this is the view from the top of her home:
To provide enough water for her family, Aditya needed to make 10 trips in the morning and 10 trips in the evening during the times that the water was turned on at the PSPs. Each trip takes about 10 minutes (she can run up the stairs with the water on her head). So, each day, she’d spend over 3 hours gathering water for her family.
About 6 months ago, the Vijayawada Municipal Corporation (VMC) started a program to provide Household Connections (HHCs) to the poor. They reduced the installation price of a connection and charge people a reasonable rate for their water. The installation cost is about INR 2,425 ($60) and each month people pay INR 50 ($1.25) for the water which is provided to their homes. The new connections look like this:
Every six months, Aditya’s family receives a bill for their water use. She showed us this bill with pride:
Now, the VMC receives revenue for the water they provide to Aditya’s family. Aditya gains three hours a day to work or care for her family. How much is her time worth? Well, Aditya can make about INR 19 ($0.50) per hour, so her HHC provides her household with about $1.50 more each day. Remember, Aditya’s family of 5 makes less than $5 per day, so $1.50 is a huge increase in their standard of living. In fact, when you amortize capital costs and account for the water bill that Aditya’s family now receives, her family’s income has increased by about 14%. Because of a simple extended pipeline, the VMC has a new revenue stream and BPL families have increased their standards of living by over 10%. Definitely a win-win.

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