The policy is state of intent that outlines deliberate set of principles guiding the government’s action to achieve the rationale outcomes. The strategy is careful plan or method depicting skills and resources required in achieving the desired objectives that are generally outlined in the policy. The sector planning process consists of detailed set of strategies and actions specifying activities required to achieve targets in relation to strategic goals as well as the allocation of specific resources to enable those actions. Overall, policy, strategy and strategic planning are interconnected, and in waster and sanitation sector, these enable sector stakeholders (policy makers, service providers, private sector and civil society) to make better investment decisions and to plan for resources required for sustaining the operations and maintenance. In addition, the strategic planning is critical for estimating the life cycle costs of services including both hardware and software component so necessary resources and capabilities are in place including incentives or any cost recovery arrangements.
During the last decade of 20th century and earlier 21st century, the global and regional debate and advocacy on WASH related issues and launching of MDGs has led not only a significant progress in sanitation sector but also brought enormous policy and legislative measures for the sector. Presently, all of the South Asian countries have WASH related policies or reasonable legislative cover to WASH sector. However, there are certain gaps in implementation of WASH related policies in region as reported in GLAAS 2014. It is alarming that only few of the countries of region are implementing the policies/strategies in limited sub-sectors of WASH i.e. Bangladesh in rural sanitation and, urban and rural drinking water; Bhutan in rural sanitation and drinking water; India in rural sanitation and drinking water and, hygiene and Sri Lanka in urban and rural drinking water are following national policies at implementation stage. For details, see Table 1.
Environmental policy planning has been an issue ever since environmental policy became an independent policy field in the early 1970s, yet actual policy plans did not get off the ground on a broad basis until the so-called Brundtland Report (WCED, 1988) was published in 1987. Since then, more than 100 countries have passed some kind of environmental planning documents . However, most policy plans “have been treated at best as checklists, or as encyclopedias of ideas, to turn to whenever the occasional policy space, or financial opportunity, emerges to do something green” . In other words, environmental policy plans, both in developed and in developing countries, often ended up gathering dust on shelves, having very limited policy relevance .
The Hansen and Ejersbo’s (2002) “Dichotomy-Duality-Model” also summarizes the relationship between politicians and administrators: “Administrators are to a very large extent involved in the formulation of visions and objectives at the political level. Their involvement is not limited to choosing means but also involves ends. Since strategy processes often show a close involvement of administrators in the ideal-type “politicians’ sphere” of strategy and policy making, the challenge of implementation is not that formulators and implementers are detached from each other. Instead, the key challenge is that politicians and administrators represent two detached groups, dealing both with the formulation and the implementation of policies in distinct ways. Irrespective of their actual working relationship, according to Hansen and Ejersbo (2002) they are detached at least in terms of the rationale they employ. Politicians on the one hand approach particular issues case-by-case and focus on competing interests involved. By utilizing such an “inductive logic of action”, they at times ignore not only existing strategies but also personal commitments or treaties. Administrators on the other hand prefer to deal with particular issues deductively by referring to general laws or guidelines.
Likewise, formulation of number of policies and strategies in region could not mark a turning point in water and sanitation history. For comparison, three latest policies/strategies, National Urban Sanitation Policy India-2008, National Rural Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Policy Afghanistan-2010 and Water Supply and Sanitation Strategy Bangladesh-2014; are marked in figure I, showing access to improved sanitation in country for 2007-2015 . The black lines in figure shows the progress of previous years to policy/strategy formulation. It is evident in figure that no change in trend of annual progress to improved sanitation obtained after formulation of these key national documents e.g. In India, national annual progress is around 1% that is consistent before and after formulation of national policy except for year 2014-15 with 0.1%; Similarly, Bangladesh marked annual sanitation progress of 1% before and after national strategy
Public policies should really deal with problems that are forward-looking and shaped by evidence rather than a response to short-term pressures; that tackle causes not symptoms . However, this statement becomes contrary in our regional context while analysing recent GLAAS report 2016/17. It has reported that WASH related data is available in four of countries, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Pakistan but not used for strategic or policy decisions while in Maldives WASH related data is not available. In only two South Asian countries Afghanistan and India data is available and followed in strategic or policy decisions. Sri Lanka has not reported in recent GLAAS report.
Equity based policies and planning is backbone of sustainable development and key to achieve universal coverage. However, there are certain vulnerable groups of population i.e. living in remote areas, people with disabilities, women, slum population, high burden disease population and indigenous population, that require deliberate efforts of member countries to take specific policy and planning measures for addressing their WASH needs. For details see table 3, taken from GLAAS 2016/17. The Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) is a key component of women/girl’s personal hygiene. Appropriate awareness and facilitation to women for MHM is pre-requisite for women active participation in daily living activities i.e. schooling and employment etc. However, it is appalling that this important issue could not achieve much coverage in regional WASH policies/strategies. Except Water Supply and Sanitation Strategy 2014 Bangladesh and Draft National Water Supply and Sanitation Policy 2014 Nepal , none of the national policy/strategy of the regional countries focus on MHM.
Country Policy and Institutional Assessment (CPIA) is a diagnostic tool that annually assesses the quality of a policies and the performance of institutional frameworks of 93 economies worldwide. CPIA provide annual rating of countries (between 0 to 5) against a set of 16 criteria grouped in four clusters: economic management, structural policies, policies for social inclusion and equity, and public sector management and institutions. The rating of CPIA on Policy and Institutions for Environmental Sustainability is based on country’s comprehensive regulations and effective implementation for pollution and natural resource issues; no harmful subsidies; transparent and public consultations; environmental assessment legislation is effective and findings are acted upon; ministries capacity to deal with environmental issues and inter-ministerial coordination takes place. Average CPIA rating for South Asia on Policy and Institutions for Environmental Sustainability has shown a decline during the last decade that is another point of concern for the region. For details see figure I Figure II: Average Rating of South Asian Countries on Policy and Institution for Environmental Sustainability
Source: Average Score of Regional Countries Calculated World Bank Data-CPIA
In 1990, Nepal facilitated a new multiparty democratic set-up that has focus to facilitate the citizens with basic necessities of life. Article 26 of the renewed constitution of 1990 articulates as “The state shall peruse a policy of raising the standard of living of the general public through the development of infrastructure such as education, health, housing and employment of the people of all regions by equitably distributing or investment of economic resource for balance development in various geographical regions of the country”. Drinking water and sanitation has been a core component of country’s five years plan with considerable increment in allocation e.g. NPR 989 million allocation in Seventh Plan (1986-90); NPR 6,273 million in Eighth Plan (1992-97) and; NPR 22,313 million in Tenth Plan (2007-09). These five years plans also reflect on the progress of previous plan and provide strategy and targets for upcoming period. To encourage the public participation, user committees were formed at implementation stage particularly in rural areas. On the other hand, several policies, legislative and strategic measure are taken in Nepal during this period i.e. Environment Protection Act 1997; Solid Waste (Management and Resource Mobilization) Regulations 1989; Nepal Water Supply Corporation Act 1989; Drinking Water Regulation 1998; Local Self Governance Regulation 1999; Rural Water Supply and Sanitation National Policy 2004; National Policy for Urban Water Supply and Sanitation 2009; Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Sectoral Strategic Action Plan 2004; School Sector Reform Plan 2009-15 and; National Framework of Child Friendly School 2010 etc. Article 35 (4) “Every citizen shall have right to access to clean drinking water and sanitation” in recent constitution of Nepal 2015 has further strengthened the WASH rights of citizen. The prioritizing of WASH by the government, increased sector allocation, target oriented continuation in planning and citizen’s involvement has marked considerable advancement in sector from improved sanitation of 4.5% in 1990 to 45.8% in 2015 (annual 1.65% growth) and open defecation of 87.8% in 1990 to 31.6% in 2015 (annual decline 2.25%). For details see Figure III. Figure III: Annual Sanitation Progress of Nepal 1990-2015 Source: World Bank Data
Although Nepal could not achieve MDG target of 53% improved sanitation by 2015 yet marked a good progress in sector and brought a lesson for the region i.e. policies and legislations, periodic planning and regular progress review, cross-sectoral coordination, participation of general public along with political will and sufficient resource allocation can make a vital change in the sector.
Launching of Sustainable Development Goals from 2016 has not only changed the context of global development but also changing the targets and agenda of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. The old targets of merely reducing the disparities by half of the population has replaced with universal access. Furthermore, service attributes, such as safe and affordable water and, adequate and equitable sanitation has emerged in sector targets. Thus, this transforming context require more deliberate efforts and extensive role of stakeholder for achieving targets by 2030. There is crucial need to translate our sectoral policies, plans and procedures according to current needs. Declaration of last SACOSAN VI in Bangladesh also brought unanimous commitment 2 in this regard.
The challenging ambitions underlined by SDGs agenda could not only be done with one time planning and policy formulation. There is dire need of periodic reviews of plans and status. In this regard, Joint Sector Review (JSR) is an emerging approach in sector for promoting mutual accountability through assessment of frameworks and result oriented reporting. A JSR process refers to a periodic assessment of performance within a specific sector by government, development partners, and civil society. The reviews are ideally an integral part of the country’s planning and reporting cycle, but this is not always the case. A study and guidance document by WSP of World Bank “Effective Joint Sector Reviews for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene 2016” defines JSR as a periodic process that brings different stakeholders in a particular sector together to engage in dialogue, review status, progress and performance and take decisions on priority actions. This study further informs that the reported JSR at 76 countries in GLAAS report 2014 don’t resemble with JSR processes or gatherings (including Afghanistan, Indonesia, Jordan, and West Bank and Gaza). GLAAS 2016/17 reported that JSR exercise has been conducted in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal in recent years. However, JSR report of only Nepal has published among South Asian countries. JSR in Nepal constitutes on the thematic sessions of Institutional Framework and Capacity Building, Sector Finance, Monitoring & Evaluation, Functionality & Sustainability, Sanitation and Hygiene, Water Quality, Gender Equality & Social Inclusion and DRR & Climate Change. Furthermore, this also include recommendation and action plan against each of the theme.