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Principal Investigators: Gareth Nellis, Anjali Bohlken, Nikhar Gaikwad
Country: India

Registration: 20190121AA

Dates of Intervention: June 2017 - August 2018

Background: Inadequate water supply ranks among the most pressing challenges facing poor citizens in developing countries. The lack of potable water poses a serious threat to public health. Open defecation is commonly practiced in places where piped water is unavailable. Water-borne diseases such as diarrhea and cholera are a primary cause of infant mortality worldwide. Women and girls disproportionately shoulder the burden of procuring water in water-scarce environments (World Health Organization 2015). The United Nations (2016) highlights “ensuring universal access to safe and affordable drinking water” as one of its Sustainable Development Goals. States across the globe are moving to expand safe water networks for drinking and sanitation. Yet uptake of formalized, fee-based water services is often meager, with citizens instead opting to rely on private, informal, or illegal water-service provisioning. Despite the importance of this issue, we know distressingly little about optimal, cost-effective policies to enhance water security. Our study, based in Mumbai, India, aims to shed fresh empirical and theoretical light on the demand-side hurdles faced by informal slum residents to formalized water access.

Research Design: Our treatment arms are designed to subsidize two types of costs associated with formalization. The first type we term bureaucratic-engagement costs, which may also be considered human capital costs. Navigating the bureaucratic process of obtaining a water connection through the Municipal Corporation is a challenging enterprise for citizens. In the first treatment arm, we will offer and provide assistance to slum residents in completing the complex process needed to apply for a municipal piped water connection. The second type of costs that citizens face are mobilization costs. In the second treatment arm, we will hold a series of collective action exercises designed to create public pressure on local bureaucrats and corporators to provide municipal water connections.

  • H1: Receiving a bureaucratic engagement cost subsidy should increase the likelihood of citizens formalizing their access to water.
  • H2: Receiving a mobilization cost subsidy in addition to receiving a bureaucratic engagement cost subsidy should have a greater effect on formalization than just receiving a bureaucratic engagement cost subsidy alone.
  • H3: Receiving the above-mentioned subsidies together should result in greater compliance with payment of water fees.