ISLAMABAD: The lack of safe water and sanitation is costing Pakistan greatly with the economic burden of poor sanitation in the country at Rs1.25 trillion — about Rs6,305 per capita, a new World Bank report says.

A publication on the ‘State of Water Supply, Sanitation and Poverty in Pakistan and its Impact on Child Stunting” made public on Wednesday, estimated that currently about Rs1,390 per capita is being spent on water and sanitation in Pakistan, which is about one per cent of GDP.

However, to provide “safely managed” water and sanitation to the underserved, at least Rs393 billion per annum — 1.4pc of GDP — is needed until 2030. This means that in the next twelve years, the country will have to inject at least Rs4.7tr in the water and sanitation sector to make their access universal by 2030.

The report, titled ‘When Water Becomes a Hazard’ recommended that budget allocations should target areas with the greatest need. Ideally, a formula should be devised and used for the distribution of water and sanitation funds at district and divisional levels and planning should be done for at least a three-year period, with rolling investment plans. Local governments should be involved in identifying and overseeing water and sanitation schemes, in order to ensure both accountability and targeting.

Districts with high stunting rates should be prioritised for water quality, drainage, and sanitation interventions. Drainage and toilet-related schemes need to be given a separate head and their own budget code. Currently, water and sanitation use the same budget code, making separate budget estimations impossible.

Officials believe that at least 90pc of sector spending goes to water supply, with less than 10pc allocated to sanitation. Even funds marked for sanitation are often spent on rural roads or other village civil works.

Water and sanitation is a provincial and local government mandate but the governance structure remains complex, with many overlaps. To reduce that and narrow the coordination gap, there is a need to clearly demarcate the responsibilities of each water and sanitation department by establishing accountability structures to ensure responsiveness to the needs of various constituencies.

The 18th amendment shifted all responsibilities in the water and sanitation sector from the federal to provincial and local governments. Although the change could increase accountability in the medium run, it weakens the federal role of setting common policy standards across the country.

Moreover, considerable confusion remains at provincial level about the roles and responsibilities of each tier of government. The operation of multiple institutions in the sector, often with substantial overlap in their mandate, creates competition for resources and weakens accountability for outcomes.

The report pointed out that local governments lack the technical capacity and the tools to target resource allocation. The Local Government Act of 2015 needs to define the functions of various tiers of government so as to reduce overlap and enhance accountability.

At the provincial level, sector planning frameworks remain weak, and there is no clearly articulated sector-wide approach. To make matters worse, resource allocation is not aligned with sector needs.

Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2018