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Corporate Sector Can Play Key Role In Achieving Urban Sanitation Goals, Report Says

The comprehensive report entitled State of Urban Water and Sanitation in India is one such activity based on rigorous consultations with stakeholders and data collected over three years, Vice Chancellor, TERI University

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In October 2017, a report entitled State of Urban Water and Sanitation in India was released, emerging from a three-year collaborative program undertaken by TERI University, Coca-Cola India, and USAID on ‘Strengthening Water and Sanitation in Urban Settings of India’.

“This report being brought out after three years of SBM covers issues that are vital to further the progress in realizing the sanitation goals and attempts to provide specific insights into aspects that require critical attention. The analysis and recommendations provided here would be of benefit in improving future policy and investment decisions in the Urban Water and Sanitation sector in India”, said Paul Aiyong Seong, Deputy Office Director, Office of Social Sector Initiatives (OSSI), USAID India.

“I am delighted that the report is released at a time when the Swachh Bharat Mission has completed three years – and the findings and recommendations it presents will be useful to policymakers and practitioners of the urban water and sanitation sector in India”, said Shubha Sekhar, Director, CSR & Sustainability, Coca-Cola India and South-West Asia.

“This comprehensive report is one such activity based on rigorous consultations with stakeholders and data collected over three years. It provides an opportunity to strengthen two flagship missions of the Government of India, namely the National Skill Development Mission and the Swachh Bharat Mission (Clean India). These missions warrant a two-pronged approach, comprising (1) capacity expansion of hardware and infrastructure and (2) strengthening the capacities of institutions and stakeholders to achieve the missions’ objectives”, said Dr Leena Srivastava, Vice Chancellor, TERI University. Srivastava also added, “Interestingly, the SBM embodies the spirit of the sustainable development goals that call upon all goals to be looked upon as integrated and indivisible. The Swachh Bharat Mission extends far beyond achieving SDG 6 because the mission also contributes to six more SDGs: poverty eradication (SDG 1), ending hunger by improved nutrition (SDG 2), ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being (SDG 3), education (SDG 4), gender equality (SDG 5), and inclusive cities (SDG 11). The present publication is a modest but important step in capturing the country’s journey thus far and in providing inputs for strengthening water and sanitation services in its cities."

The report states, “India has been in the limelight for poor sanitation for several years and often mentioned as the country with the largest share of people defecating in the open. In addition, safe management and disposal of human excreta, an important aspect of improved sanitation, are yet to get the required attention in several Indian cities. Lack of access to safe water and sanitation has extensive negative impacts on health and the economy. The Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) of the World Bank estimated the cost of poor sanitation in India in 2006 at 2.4 lakh crore, or 1 trillion, rupees (53.8 billion US dollars)—6.4% of the country’s gross domestic product.” The report also adds, “The Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), launched in October 2014, accorded high priority to sanitation in the country’s development agenda. As a nationwide mission, the SBM is one of the biggest ever drives in sanitation and received immense attention from all stakeholders. Along with other important urban infrastructure initiatives, namely the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and the Smart Cities Mission, the SBM is expected to support the cities in achieving the goals of complete elimination of open defecation and scientific management of the entire municipal solid waste.”

With respect to the state of sanitation in the different regions of India, the report states, “The assessment of the status of sanitation (especially ODF) in each of the five regions indicates that progress has been far from uniform: the western region and the southern region have fared better overall, and the eastern region has fared far better than the northern region (except the union territory of Chandigarh). Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand have also improved markedly in terms of city sanitation rankings. The other regional toppers are Gujarat followed by Madhya Pradesh in the west, Andhra Pradesh in the south, and Mizoram in the North-East. Uttar Pradesh has performed well in terms of achieving the targets for individual household latrines (IHHLs) compared to the other states in the northern region. Odisha in the eastern region, Tripura in the north-eastern region, and Karnataka in the southern need to improve their performance across all sub-domains.”

Some of the challenges faced by urban local bodies in keeping their commitment to meeting sanitation targets, as per the report, are the issue of informal space and untenured lands occupied by slum dwellers, new migrants, and low-income households, exclusion of slum dwellers and population living in unplanned areas from planned interventions, environmental and legal issues of servicing slums occupying ecologically fragile lands and non-engagement of communities, specifically slum dwellers, in governance. As per the report, “The Swachh Survekshan 2017 ranked Indore, Bhopal, Visakhapatnam, Surat, and Mysore – in that order – as the five cleanest cities in the country. An integrated participatory approach to being open-defecation free (ODF) and improving solid waste management transformed the sanitation scenario in Indore, catapulting it from the 149th position in 2014 to the first position in 2017.”

Some of the successes of the Swachh Bharat Mission according to the report are, “Andhra Pradesh, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra are now ODF. Many of the ULBs (urban local bodies) have taken up innovative initiatives. In the last three years of the SBM, 3.1 million IHHLs (Individual Household Latrines) have been constructed in urban areas of the country as against the five-year mission target of 10.4 million toilets to be built by 2019.” The report also adds, “The Swachh Bharat Kosh and the recently launched SWACHH portal as a crowdfunding platform to encourage private-sector participation in the initiatives undertaken by ULBs as part of the SBM were two significant steps to facilitate corporate engagement in sanitation.”

“For the vast majority of the urban poor who lack improved sanitation services, lack of finance is a major challenge. The ambitious goal of the SBM can be achieved if the current incentive, in the form of a subsidy that covers 30%–50% of the cost of building a toilet, is leveraged to raise additional funds through market-based resources by facilitating innovative finance. Innovative models of financing can complement the subsidies from the SBM (Urban) to not only increase the proportion of the target population with access to sanitation but also to contribute to improved use and sustainability of sanitation services”, adds the report.

Some of the broad outcome indicators of sanitation by region, as per the report, are as follows-

The report also adds, “Capacity building and incentives are the need of the hour along with an overarching policy framework for the sector. Urban sanitation is dealt with in a piecemeal manner at present whereas the problem is multidimensional and requires a holistic approach: economic growth, urbanization, public health, and the environment (including climate change)—all affect urban sanitation”, and states that, “Indore, Bhopal, Visakhapatnam, Surat, and Mysuru were ranked by the Swachh Survekshan 2017 as the five cleanest cities in India, and this recognition has paved the way for demonstrating success to other urban areas. The results of the Swach Survekshan 2015 and 2016 motivated these cities, especially the first four, to leapfrog from being ranked 149, 105, 205, and 63 in 2015 to 1, 2, 3, and 4.”

As per the report, some of the factors that led to the progress of Swachh Bharat Mission are policy and governance, infrastructure and service delivery, technology, finance, corporate engagement and citizen partnership. The report also states that “Corporate houses in India have shown their involvement mostly in the conventional role of funding targeted mainly at rural areas. Given the unprecedented buzz and energy that the SBM has created around sanitation in India, there exists a huge opportunity to build on this momentum, and the involvement of corporate houses needs to go beyond creating infrastructure to ensuring sustainable sanitation.” For the missing links in the sanitation value chain, the reasons stated as per the report are devolving powers to urban local bodies, inadequate funding, streamlining programme design and phasing of sewerage projects, deficits in connectivity, repairs, and operations, inappropriate technology in sewage treatment plants, lack of an integrated approach to sanitation, weak regulatory measures and enabled environment and lack of converged data and knowledge management.

The report states that, “to achieve the required speed, scale, and sustainability of India’s mission to achieve long-term and safe sanitation for all, it is imperative, first, to recognize the severity of the problem of urban sanitation in India and, second, to re-imagine the role of the corporate sector to that of a partner“, adding that, “Campaigns for behavioural change are often considered essential to achieve the ambitious sanitation targets sustainably. However, it is equally important to pair such campaigns with a local ecosystem backed by demand-led schemes. Funding, although only one part of such an ecosystem, can play a major role in mobilizing communities and unlocking demand. If used well, some of the innovative mechanisms such as social impact investing and crowd-funding can also help to improve outcomes and to ensure greater accountability. Appropriate national and local mechanisms for city sanitation funds can help to capture different sources of funds and to support the development of the ecosystem.”

Some of the recommendations of the report are- improve the regulatory mechanism, enhance capacities of urban local bodies, undertake appropriate planning and implementation of sectoral programmes, foster an enabling environment for financing and improve data management, monitoring, and review.