Abstract – The right to water in rural Punjab: Assessing equitable access to water through the Punjab Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project

Shamsher Samra, Julia Crowley, and Mary C. Smith Fawzi

Health and Human Rights 13/2

Published December 2011


Although India is poised to meet its Millennium Development Goal for providing access to safe drinking water, there remains a worrying discrepancy in access between urban and rural areas. In 2006, 96% of the urban population versus 86% of the rural population obtained their drinking water from an improved water source. To increase access to potable water in rural areas, the World Bank and the state of Punjab have implemented the Punjab Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project (PRWSS) to improve or construct water supply systems in 3,000 villages deemed to have inadequate access to clean drinking water. This study aimed to examine whether the right to water was fulfilled in six towns in rural Punjab during implementation of the PRWSS. The normative content of the right to water requires that water be of adequate quantity, safety, accessibility, affordability, and acceptability in terms of quality. While our findings suggest that the PRWSS improved water quality, they also indicate that access to water was limited due to affordability and the low socioeconomic status of some people living in the target communities.