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Published Date: Jan 27, 2014

SDPI Press Release (January 27, 2014)

Access to basic services such as water is not only dependent on supply
but also on social and political factors that impede their provision in
some parts of the country. This was expressed by Dr. Sheharyar Toru
while presenting a research study on ‘Administrative Practice and Social
Norms: The Case of Water Supply’ here at the Sustainable Development
Policy Institute (SDPI). The case study focused on provision of water in
the Nawansher Union Council of Abbotabad district. Water supply in the
area has remained disrupted due to increase in population over the last
few years. After the introduction of the local government system in
2001, supply of water to households was also delegated to institutions
at the local tehsil level.

Dr. Toru hinted that social and
political relations are major factors in the supply of water in
Nowansher. A number of people reported that water supply is dominated by
political elites in the area, while non-influential people continue to
remain deprived. Official norms would often contradict with informal
social relations, further exacerbating the problem in the area, he said.
Water supply lines for Nawansher were also diverted to areas where
political elites had their own private interests. The incumbent Nazim of
the area would make sure that water was foremost supplied to areas
where he had a strong voter base, neglecting those who had not voted for
him during elections. The political system in the area was such that
those with connections to the Nazim had easier access to water. The Town
Committee in the area, on the other hand, reported that in a number of
cases, people had laid down direct pumps into the main line, thereby
obstructing supply of water to other households. If technical
supervisors responsible for regulating water supply would not comply by
the instructions of political elites in the area, they would be poorly
appraised by the latter, Dr. Toru reported.

Also present at the
occasion was Mukhtar Ahmed, Independent Development Policy Analyst. He
said that the research provides important insights for policy-making
with regards to public service delivery in the country. While there are
certain norms that may inhibit service delivery, engagement of
state-actors with local communities can re-shape prevalent norms for
improvement in provision of basic services. Participants also expressed
that provision of utilities such as water and gas remain uninterrupted
in areas inhabited by the powerful in the country, as is witnessed in a
number of areas in the federal capital.