Water and Livelihoods in Odisha

22 September 2023

This report, part of Jal Kaushal, a research project undertaken in partnership with Arghyam, explores the jobs-tasks-skills nexus of water management in rural Odisha. Building on the understanding that community involvement is critical for water management, this report seeks to illuminate the nature of this involvement and the barriers that need to be overcome to ensure sustained water management and achieve water security.

In India, the world’s largest user of groundwater, there are several government and civil society interventions that promote water management with the goal of making India’s villages water secure. Most interventions, whether initiated by state and central governments or by civil society, are decentralized, emphasizing the role of community members in their implementation and management. They build on the understanding that water is an essential component of rural economies and is necessary to create and maintain jobs across sectors. Integrated water management, which includes managing the source, infrastructure, and water services, is both a job creator as well as a job enabler.

However, despite the understanding that water and water management are job creators and enablers, there is little record of community members’ or frontline workers’ tasks, responsibilities, training, skills, remuneration, and working conditions. This is further complicated by the fact that water management work at the local level is often part-time, voluntary, or unpaid. Thus, despite consensus that community members perform critical water management tasks, there remains a gap in knowledge about the work they do and the conditions they work in.

To address this, JustJobs Network (JJN) and Arghyam launched Jal Kaushal, a project that examines the jobs-tasks-skills nexus of rural water management. JJN hypothesizes that a greater understanding of jobs and tasks engendered by the sector can enhance the sustainability and success of water management initiatives.

This state report of Odisha, one of the five states studied as part of Jal Kaushal, offers an insight into who performs water management tasks in the state, the conditions they operate in, the barriers they face, and what can be done to ensure their involvement furthers water management goals while supporting livelihood needs.