Khanna, T, 2015 –– Are water ATMs an innovative solution in providing safe drinking water to urban poor
My research project ‘Decentralised drinking water supply for the urban poor in Delhi: An assessment of water ATMs’ was based in Delhi, India. I carried out the research with support from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the International WaterCentre (IWC).
Poor urban communities face many issues with drinking water services ranging from lacking spatial and temporal access to uncertain quality and acceptability issues. The research revealed that affordability does not pose a big challenge as originally thought, but the community is facing major issues relating to the reliability and quality of water services to meet their basic needs. Therefore, water ATMs (water vending services) are a good interim option for the poorly served communities in urban areas. ATMs assure a good quality service for the community at all times. However, the success of water ATMs depends upon communication between the various agencies involved. Public utilities need to build trust with the community to use this option as an interim measure until the community receives piped water services.
The project was based on primary data collection about poor urban communities in Delhi. It involved interacting with water experts from both the public and private sectors and engaging with the community. On one hand, the interactions with water experts exposed me to broader issues and how improvements for poor communities influence the take-up of new initiatives in the sector like water ATMs. On the other hand, community engagement broadened my perspective about the challenges being faced by the end users. Conducting research on the ground in my home city made me grow closer to my city and even more determined to make it a more inclusive place for all.
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