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Industry leaders and experts from India’s Water & Waste sector react to the Union Budget 2021 presented on February 1, 2021…

The announcement of Jal Jeevan Mission (Urban) covering all the 4,378 ULBs in Budget 2021 is a welcome step. AMRUT – a 5-year mission launched in June 2015 and is further extended to March 2022 – has resulted in the creation of basic water supply and sewerage infrastructure, covering more than half the population, in 500 cities in India. The total urban population in the country is projected to increase to about 60 crores by 2030.

Given this context, it is heartening to note that JJM (Urban) has more than thrice the financial outlay of the AMRUT mission. This is very timely as it will allow India to build on current success under AMRUT and achieve SDG-6 on water and sanitation in urban areas. While the JJM aims to provide functional tap connections to each and every household, it will be critical to focus on sustainability.

This to ensure that mission benefits are not lost due to increasing population, urbanization, rising water demands, resource constraints, pollution, and climate change impacts. What this requires is adopting an integrated urban water management approach, by including projects on water conservation, source rejuvenation, rainwater harvesting, water efficiency and leakage management, and non-revenue water reduction. In the sanitation sub-sector, we need to focus on faecal sludge and septage management as an alternative to sewered systems, and to incentivize treated effluent reuse for non-potable use.

Lastly, JJM (Urban) also needs to take forward the institutional and financial reforms initiated by AMRUT such as capacity building and credit rating of ULBs, raising municipal bonds, etc.

The previous phase of Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) Urban brought a paradigm shift in terms of changing sanitation-related behavior. It spotlighted sanitation and cleanliness in all 4000+ Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) and targeted open-defecation at the city level by pushing access to toilets.

Through this, we achieved significant progress towards SDG 6.2 on safe access to sanitation. However, the end goal remains to be achieved – this is to safely manage and treat liquid and solid wastes and harness materials, nutrients, energy, and water from them. While SBM Urban 1.0 was lacking in these aspects, SBM Urban 2.0 has rightly focused on faecal sludge management and wastewater treatment to cover the remaining links in the sanitation chain. This promises to make earlier investments sustainable since the toilets we built will now be complemented by Operation & Maintenance (O&M) and appropriate liquid waste management systems.

For solid waste management, SBM 2.0 focuses on source segregation, construction, and demolition waste, bio-remediation of dumpsites, etc. which was largely left out in SBM 1.0. This is the urgent need of the hour as most of our cities are simply dumping solid wastes without much treatment.

With the previously announced ban on single-use plastics, SBM 2.0 interventions could have a major impact in all urban areas. To improve this mission, we should further focus on reinforcing good sanitation behaviors and achieving ODF+ and ODF++ status in all cities, develop urban standards for FSSM and implement plans for managing C&D wastes, plastic wastes, bio-medical wastes, waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) and hazardous wastes as well.

Lastly, to sustain our achievements, it will be very important to come up with viable schemes, incentives, and business models to harness the resources of the informal sector & civil society stakeholders and to attract private sector investments as well. We also need to focus on enhancing the technical capacities of urban local bodies in waste management.

– Anil Bansal, Director – Urban Infrastructure, IPE Global

Know More – India’s Union Budget 2021: Rs. 2.87 Lakh Crore Outlay For Jal Jeevan Mission & Universal Water Supply Scheme For Urban Areas…

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