Transforming Urban Areas: Key government programmes progressing towards making cities more liveable

Key government programmes progressing towards making cities more liveable

The country’s rapidly expanding urban areas are fuelling economic growth. At the same time, urbanisation is creating challenges related to congestion, pollution and waste, besides exerting pressure on the existing civic infrastructure. In the past few years, the government has launched a number of programmes aimed at improving efficiency in urban infrastructure and service delivery through a slew of reform measures and programmes. These include the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), the Swachh Bharat Mission, the Smart Cities Mission, the Housing for All Scheme, and the Namami Gange programme.

Since their roll-out, these initiatives have resulted in significant improvements in the sluggishly growing sector. In a number of cities 24×7 water supply projects are being implemented, decentralised sewage treatment plants (STPs) and recycle and reuse facilities are being set up across the country, smart waste management solutions are being deployed, and waste-to-energy (WtE) plants are being set up. ULBs have adopted double-accounting systems and introduced a number of e-governance modules.

Indian Infrastructure provides an overview of the key programmes and schemes and the progress achieved so far…

Swachh Bharat Mission

The Swachh Bharat Mission was launched on October 2, 2014, with the objective of eliminating the practice of open defecation in Indian cities. The mission focuses on six key parameters including 100 per cent door-to-door collection; construction of individual household latrines (IHLL), community and public toilets; and setting up of WtE and waste-to-compost plants.

In the past four and a half years, the mission has achieved tremendous progress in terms of construction of 5,571,754 IHLLs and 473,651 community and public toilets, as against a target of 6.64 million units. This translates into achieving about 95 per cent of the target. In addition, about 698,450 IHLLs and 38,456 community and public toilets are currently at different stages of development.

Further, a total of 75,227 wards (out of 84,229 wards) have already achieved 100 per cent door-to-door solid waste collection. Moreover, segregation of waste at source has commenced in about 51,114 wards. Besides, 51 per cent of the 145,687 tonnes per day (tpd) waste being generated in cities is being processed. Further, 88.4 MW of power and 1,506,501 metric tonnes of compost is being generated from waste through WtE and biomethanation plants respectively.

Besides infrastructure development, three swachhta surveys were conducted in 2016, 2017 and 2018 to foster competition among cities with respect to cleanliness levels. Recently, in January 2019, Swachh Sarvekhsan 2019 was launched, under which 4,237 urban local bodies (ULBs) and 62 cantonment boards are competing to bag the top spot in cleanliness standards.

Other steps such as conducting capacity building workshops for ULBs and public awareness campaigns for behaviour change and introduction of information and communications technology tools such as Google Toilet Locator and Swachhta Application are also being taken under the mission.

Since the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission in 2014, the government has allocated funds worth over Rs 140 billion for the implementation of various programmes proposed under the mission and till January 2019, about Rs 83 billion has been utilised.


Unveiled on June 25, 2015, with the aim of providing basic amenities in 500 cities, AMRUT is another ambitious initiative. Till date, a total of 4,672 projects, as part of state annual action plans, worth Rs 776.4 billion have been approved for execution. The projects relate to provision of water supply, sewerage and sanitation, and storm water drainage, and creation of parks and green spaces.

In the past three years (2015-18, till December 2018), construction work on only 1,321 projects worth Rs 31.75 billion had been completed. Further, 3,229 projects (70 per cent of the total number of projects approved) worth Rs 575 billion are at different stages of execution and about 584 projects worth Rs 105.69 billion are at the tendering stage. Besides, detailed project reports (DPRs) of 382 projects worth Rs 74.95 billion have been approved.

Sector-wise, 154 water supply projects worth Rs 13.25 billion had been completed till December 2018 and contracts for another 965 projects (Rs 292.05 billion) had been awarded. About 151 projects worth Rs 80.47 billion are at the tendering stage. Besides, DPRs for 97 projects worth Rs 43 billion have been approved. With respect to sewerage and septage management, only 40 projects worth Rs 5.2 billion had been completed till December 2018. Another 491 projects worth Rs 215.08 billion were awarded recently. Besides, 51 storm water drainage projects worth Rs 810 million have been completed. Another, 516 storm water drainage projects worth Rs 21.01 billion are currently under implementation.

Smart Cities Mission

Launched in June 2015, the mission aims at upgrading the existing core infrastructure in Indian cities and ensuring a better quality of life through the deployment of smart and innovative solutions. These smart solutions are based on six key themes – mobility, solid waste management, water and waste water management, housing, energy, and safety and security. As part of the mission, a total of 100 cities have been identified under four rounds of bidding. Projects worth over Rs 2 trillion have been approved for execution, and these are further bifurcated into area-based development (ABD) projects (over Rs 1.6 trillion) and pan-city projects (Rs 400 billion).

Till December 2018, 534 projects worth about Rs 101.16 billion had been completed. This translates into a project completion rate of 5 per cent over a span of three years. Further, implementation has commenced on 1,177 projects worth Rs 434.93 billion while another 677 projects worth Rs 382.07 billion are still at the tendering stage.

Round-wise, cities selected under the first two rounds of the mission have made significant headway, while cities selected under Round III and Round IV are yet to make noticeable progress.

Among Round I cities, Visakhapatnam had completed about 40 per cent (21 projects) of the proposed works as of October 2018. Further, 32 per cent of the projects are under execution and 17 per cent of the projects are currently at the bidding stage. Tirupati, which was selected under Round II of the mission, has completed 7 per cent of its projects. Further, 20 per cent of the projects are under execution and 27 per cent of the projects are under tendering.

Segment-wise, smart water management projects worth Rs 9.02 billion in 18 cities have been completed and projects worth Rs 59.61 billion in 35 cities are under implementation (as of December 2018). Further, tenders have been issued for smart water management projects worth Rs 9.21 billion in 17 cities.

Namami Gange programme

In May 2015, the government launched the Namami Gange programme for the conservation of the Ganga river. The programme aims to rejuvenate and protect the river, through setting up sewerage infrastructure in 11 states – Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.

Till November 2018, a total of 254 projects had been sanctioned at a cost of approximately Rs 246.72 billion. These projects relate to setting up of sewerage infrastructure (including modular STPs), riverfront development, construction of ghats and crematoria, and ghat cleaning, among other works.

Of the total, 131 projects worth Rs 197.42 billion pertain to development of sewerage infrastructure across identified states. As part of these projects, 3,083 million litres per day (mld) of sewage treatment capacity will be created, 886 mld of STPs will be rehabilitated and about 4,871 km of sewer network will be laid.

In the past three years, 31 projects have been completed. About 2,268 km of sewer network has been laid and 560 mld STP capacity has been constructed. The remaining projects are scheduled to be completed by 2020.

In terms of financial progress, during the period 2014-15 to 2018-19 (till November 2018), funds worth over Rs 61 billion have been released by the government. Of this, about 81 per cent (Rs 49.94 billion) had been utilised until November 2018.


Continuous support from the government in the form of schemes with clearly laid out objectives has created an enabling environment for driving large-scale investments in the water and waste sector. However, timely completion of projects and meeting the programme objectives will be essential for the overall success of the initiatives.

Going forward, the sector will have a larger pool of completed projects in the next two years. As a number of these projects will be implemented on a public-private partnership basis, it is expected that water and waste management will be more efficient, given the expertise of the private sector, and a valuable bank of key learnings and best practices will be available. This could also present a case for greater private sector participation in the future.