The ‘Fix for Life’ campaign in Kolkata aims to conserve water in the cities by installing taps to the roadside pipes which provide water for those who live on the streets and the slums. The local government provides potable water to the slums through an estimated 17,000 roadside pipes. This is freely available and has made it possible for many residents to continue living in these areas.

However, a recent survey shows that 30% of the water simply runs down the drain. This wastage is partly caused by the lack of taps on the roadside pipes. If the taps were installed, these were either stolen or broken. With the taps installed, the city would be able to save millions of gallons of water.

It has proven to be a colossal challenge installing the taps since there is no official data on the exact location of these pipes. The people behind the campaign have to either search for the water pipes manually or rely on the data provided by the citizens and community clubs to know where to install their taps.

Read the full article on The Guardian: Saving a city millions of gallons of water – one tap at a time

Analysis:

While the local government is responsible for producing and supplying the potable water to their residents, it has not sought to maintain the roadside pipes that supply the water. Since the water is provided as a public good, it should fall under their remit of governance. The citizen-led initiative organised by the Fix for Life campaign should ideally complement the local government’s efforts rather than stand in for it.

Furthermore, if the local government bears responsibility for the issue and installs tap in all the wards in the city, this problem would be solved in much less time. At the very minimum, if they provided the data on where the roadside pipes are located, this would help the campaign install taps to more slum areas.

Questions for further personal evaluation: 

  1. What should be the relationship between citizen-led, grassroot initiatives and government efforts? Can a grassroot initiative be effective without the support of the government?
  2. If you volunteered with Fix for Life and several taps for the roadside pipes end up being broken due to misuse or stolen, would you continue installing further pipes? Would you do anything differently?

Useful vocabulary: 

  1. ‘colossal’: extremely large or great
  2. ‘remit’: the task or area of activity officially assigned to an individual or organization

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