Update on AMRUT: Ambitious mission to solve infrastructure woes

Ambitious mission to solve infrastructure woes

In a bid to improve the quality of infrastructure services in the country, the government launched the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), on June 25, 2015. The focus of the mission is to provide basic services to households in the areas of water supply, sewerage and urban transport and build amenities in cities to improve the quality of life for all, especially the poor and the disadvantaged. A total of 500 cities have been selected in various states for development under AMRUT. Of the selected cities, the maximum number have been identified in Uttar Pradesh (61), followed by West Bengal (60) and Maharashtra (44).

Key components

The two primary components of the programme are water supply and sewerage. Drinking water supply in India continues to be inadequate, despite long-standing efforts to improve coverage and services by various levels of government and communities. Therefore, to improve water supply coverage, initiatives such as the expansion of existing water supply and water treatment capacity, achievement of universal metering, rehabilitation of old water supply systems, recharge of groundwater and creation of special water supply arrangements for areas which lack such facilities have been envisaged under AMRUT. Further, to ensure a robust sewerage network in states, the mission has made provisions for the augmentation of existing sewerage systems and sewage treatment plants (STPs), rehabilitation of old and worn-out sewerage systems and laying of decentralised networks for underground sewerage systems, among other initiatives.

Meanwhile, as sanitation services are imperative to avoid externalities such as health hazards, AMRUT has recommended several solutions. These include the mechanical and biological cleaning of sewers and septic tanks, and faecal sludge management including the cleaning, transportation and treatment of faecal sludge.

Another key component of the mission is aimed at eliminating flooding in cities. For this, providing adequate stormwater drains and undertaking proper maintenance of existing drains will be essential. Urban transport has also been focused on to reduce pollution levels in cities. To this end, public urban transport facilities like bus rapid transit systems and non-motorised transport have been promoted. The introduction of more ferry vessels for inland waterways, developing footpaths, sidewalks and foot overbridges, and constructing multilevel parking areas are some other measures. Meanwhile, to increase amenities in cities, green parks and well-maintained open spaces will be developed. Reform management and building individual and institutional capacity are some of the other components to be covered under the mission.

Funding under AMRUT and progress so far

In Union Budget 2017-18, funds to the tune of Rs 90 billion have been set aside for the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affair’s (MoHUA) mission. This is lower than the revised estimates of Rs 95.59 billion for the year 2016-17. Of the total funds allocated for 2017-18, about 55 per cent (Rs 50 billion) has been made towards AMRUT and the remaining Rs 40 billion has been allocated to the Smart Cities Mission.

Progress under AMRUT

Progress under AMRUT has been encouraging so far. In some states such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka more than 60 per cent of the contracts have been awarded against approved state annual action plans (SAAPs). Overall, SAAPs worth Rs 776.4 billion have been approved as of October 2017, of which contracts amounting to Rs 195.59 billon stand awarded. Further, bids have been invited for various projects worth Rs 147.04 billion and detailed project reports (DPRs) worth about Rs 107.66 billion have been granted approval by the MoHUA. Meanwhile, works worth Rs 520 million stand completed.

Allocations under SAAP-III (2017-20)

Since the inception of AMRUT, central assistance amounting to Rs 67.68 billion has been released under the mission. In October 2017, the first instalment of Rs 24.19 billion in assistance was released by the central government against SAAP-III (for the period 2017-20) to 20 states and union territories (UTs) for taking up various projects. The release of assistance was after the states had achieved mandated benchmarks, such as projects totalling at least 25 per cent (SAAP-I) being contracted and projects of at least 50 per cent of total approvals (SAAP-I and SAAP-II) with DPRs approved, among others.

Of the total instalment released, the highest allocation of Rs 3,750.8 million has been made for Uttar Pradesh for the execution of 46 water supply projects (Rs 19,960.2 million) and 47 sewerage projects (Rs 21,494.6 million), among others. This is followed by Tamil Nadu with an allocation of Rs 3,602.7 million for taking up 15 water supply projects worth Rs 7,337 million.

Meanwhile, more recently, another three states/UTs – Delhi, Telangana and Puducherry – have achieved the milestones to become eligible for the release of the first instalment of central assistance under SAAP-III. However, 13 states/ UTs including the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Punjab, Sikkim and Tripura are yet to achieve the requisite milestones, and have therefore not been included for assistance under SAAP-III.

Key upcoming projects

Several projects are being executed under AMRUT at present and many more are in the pipeline. Key among these is the Jalgaon City Water Supply Project to be executed in Maharashtra, the contract for which was awarded to Jain Irrigation Systems Limited in October 2017. Another project, the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation Water Supply Project for 60 per cent of the area under the corporation will be executed at a cost of Rs 2.44 billion. The DPR for the project has been approved recently. The Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC) is providing underground sewerage connections to 30,000 new households under AMRUT at a cost of Rs 300 million. Meanwhile, an integrated STP worth Rs 3 billion is planned for Udaipur. The proposed STP will improve the waste management system of the city and also clean the waterbodies of urban sewage.

The way forward

The urban infrastructure sector is going through a transformation. Though AMRUT is supporting the implementation of projects, proper planning is essential for the effective management and execution of projects. Meanwhile, to implement such large schemes, there is a pressing need to have strong institutional and legal frameworks in place, which define the roles and responsibilities of individual entities. Further, since urban local bodies are generally not very competent in terms of handling finances, their financial capacity and organisational structure need to be improved. Moreover, the adoption of transparent procedures and training of personnel to handle technological issues is imperative for the realisation of the mission’s objectives.