Promoting Sustainability of Community Based Rural Transport InfrastructureThe aim of the workshop was to promote sustainable systems of rural transport through community management and the participation of all stakeholders. The workshop was based on the assumption that community participation and management was an essential ingredient for the long term maintenance and sustainability of community based transport infrastructure – particularly rural roads. Organised by the IFRTD affiliated Indian network, the Rajasthan Forum Group and the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) at the BITS campus in Pilani, Rajasthan, India, the workshop brought together a large number of practitioners in rural development mainly from India, but also from the Asian countries of Bangladesh, Cambodia and Sri Lanka.
SDC/IFRTD Toolkit for Promoting Sustainability of Rural Transport Infrastructure
Participants used the SDC/IFRTD Toolkit for Promoting Sustainability of Rural Transport Infrastructure to kick off discussions. The Toolkit, is targeted at infrastructure professionals, national and expatriate, working on planning, designing and implementing rural road programmes in developing countries. In the Toolkit, the Bolivian example that inspired its creation is complemented by other country case studies from Benin, Madagascar, Nepal, Tanzania and Sri Lanka. The workshop added further experiences from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and the experiences of the PMGSY, (Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana or Prime Minister’s Rural Roads Programme) in India.
The workshop used a participatory approach. There were presentations and participation from senior officials of the PMGSY and field engineers from Chatthisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan . The Director General, Mr Vijay Kumar gave the keynote address and the Director, Professor B P Chandra Sekhar participated for most of the days. The latter was a participant for most of the workshop. A field trip organised to villages around nearby Chirawa that have received connectivity through PMGSY contributed challenging community and user perspectives. Professionals from a range of technical and community development organisations, added value to the discussions. The workshop concluded with recommendations on ways of taking action on the issues discussed to the International Forum for Rural Transport and Development, the International Focus Group on Rural Road Engineering and the PMGSY. Participants individually pledged their own commitments to do something about the issues within their own organisations and spheres of influence.
Ensuring community participation and ownership
It was unequivocally accepted by all the workshop participants that without community participation and ownership of rural road infrastructure, governments could not ensure the continued maintenance or sustainability of community assets. The key principle for ensuring participation and ownership was to involve communities at the initial stages of the planning and designing the infrastructure and to discuss issues of maintenance at this point, rather than after the infrastructure was put into place. This implies the need to begin any project with public village level meetings, initiating pre-implementation discussions and collaborating with other agencies (both government and non-government) working in the targeted communities.
A second important factor was the need to find different ways of communicating information or sharing knowledge about infrastructure programmes. Communities are likely to take greater responsibility for the infrastructure if they were aware of the roles of the different stakeholders in the programme, the technical expectations from contractors and the costs of future maintenance.
Rural infrastructure programmes require building the capacity of different stakeholders. Communities need to increase their technical knowledge and capacity if they are to take ownership, monitor implementation and use, and take responsibility for maintenance. At the same time technical personnel in national, state and local government road sector agencies needed to strengthen their capacity to communicate with, transfer knowledge to and mobilise communities
Several strategies for achieving this were discussed and formed part of the recommendations. The experiences of the Local Government Engineering Department of Bangladesh in sub-dividing rural road maintenance tasks according to different levels of technical capacity required, was seriously considered by the field engineers present as a means for increasing community capacity for maintenance. There were also several suggestions of developing localised pools of retired engineers and/or recent graduates to complement the work of implementing agencies and provide technical expertise to communities.
Implementation should be through multidisciplinary teams involving other government and non-government agencies with greater experience of community mobilisation.
Financing maintenance was a major challenge for the sustainability of rural road infrastructure. The Toolkit encouraged taking into account local financial and technical capacity to maintain the local infrastructure. It provided some interesting case studies of cost-sharing partnerships of different stakeholders. The workshop participants recognised the need to look for innovative financing arrangements and to look at how financial contributions can be mobilised from all users of the infrastructure, not only from the inhabitants of the village receiving connectivity but also from entrepreneurs, traders and transport providers whose economic activity benefits from this connectivity.
For more information about the workshop and a detailed proceedings please contact:
Professor Ashoke K Sarkar, PhD
Dean, Instruction Division and Faculty Division I
Tel: +91 1596 245073 ext 235
+91 1596 244113 (R)
Fax: +91 1596 244183
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