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Alex Hazelgrove-Planel

Sustainability of water services: A review of international development programme approaches to rural water access in Nepal

Sustainability has long been the Achilles heel of international development programmes seeking to improve rural access to safe water. Enshrined in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030, definitions of sustainability are still emerging and, 3 years in to the global effort to deliver the SDGs, it is not clear that approaches to providing access to water live up to their ambition. This study seeks to understand the extent of sustainability in contemporary approaches, proposing and applying a framework to review a case study of 4 UK funded development programmes in Nepal. Results indicate that none of the sample programmes are providing sustainable water services, but good practice was observed on which more sustainable approaches can be built. Recommendations are made for the programmes and the sector. Achieving sustainability requires interventions to shift their main focus from the construction of assets to what happens after, where access is maintained and improved by a combination of institutions and support – particularly as the sector’s emphasis shifts to maintaining universal access.