Recent Developments: Government formulates new policies and projects for water conservation

Government formulates new policies and projects for water conservation

The urban water supply and sanitation sector has seen considerable activity in terms of the launch of new policies and projects in the past year. A number of projects, funded through both internal and external sources, are currently at different stages of implementation. Urban local bodies (ULBs) have explored new means for gaining financial independence via the issue of municipal bonds. Moreover, they have taken proactive steps to improve service delivery with the help of digitalisation and deployment of advanced technologies….

Indian Infrastructure tracks key developments in the sector in the past year

  •  The central government has announced a central outlay of Rs 500.39 billion for the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) under Union Budget 2020-21. The outlay for 2020-21 is higher than the previous year’s planned budget outlay of Rs 480.32 billion and revised outlay of Rs 422.66 billion.
  •  On July 1, 2019, the central government launched a water conservation campaign, the Jal Shakti Abhiyan, with the goal of providing water security for all by 2024. The mission focuses on 1,592 water-stressed blocks in 256 districts. The central government has already approved Rs 3.6 trillion for providing piped water supply to every household. Under Union Budget 2020-21, the mission received an allocation of Rs 115 billion to augment local water resources, recharge existing sources, and promote water harvesting and desalination. The government has also planned to take comprehensive measures for 100 water-stressed districts.
  • In July 2019, Meghalaya became the first state to release a dedicated water policy for conservation of water resources through measures such as building check dams and setting up rainwater harvesting systems, amongst others. The policy also recommends conducting a safety audit of state dams at periodic intervals by the Meghalaya State Dam Safety Organisation. Later, in September 2019, the Maharashtra government formulated the Maharashtra State Water Policy to focus on flood management, drought mitigation and domestic as well as industrial water usage.
  •  The Delhi Jal Board (DJB) has made it mandatory for all properties with an area of 100 square metres and above to have functional rainwater harvesting systems. It had amended the Water and Sewer (Tariff) Regulations, 2012, to include this clause with strong penal provisions for defaulters. Further, the Water Corporation of Odisha has drafted short-term, mid-term and long-term plans to ensure 24×7 water supply in the state. Its short-term plan consists of the installation of water meters in every household, and setting up of a meter testing lab and a cell to address the issues of non-revenue water. The mid-term plan will involve setting up of a state-of-the-art institution for capacity building and a central control and command centre. The long-term plan will focus on preparing a policy framework and guidelines for water conservation and groundwater usage.
  • The past year marked the inauguration of the first sewage treatment plant (STP) based on the hybrid annuity model under public- private partnership at Sarai, Haridwar, in December 2019. The plant, with a treatment capacity of 14 million litres per day (mld), is based on the advanced sequential batch reactor process. Another STP at Dinapur, Varanasi, with a capacity of 140 mld was inaugurated in November 2019. This is the first and the largest sewage treatment project to be implemented under the Namami Gange programme.
  • Besides, the year witnessed the commissioning of two tertiary treatment reverse osmosis (TTRO) plants in Chennai. The first TTRO plant was commissioned in Kodungaiyur on October 2, 2019, making Chennai the first Indian city to recycle sewage to supply water to industries. The second plant, the Koyambedu TTRO, was commissioned on November 29, 2019. The plants have a treatment capacity of 45 mld each and will provide industries with good quality water and help decrease the burden on groundwater sources.
  • Foundation stones were laid for various projects in the segment in the past year. The Gujarat government laid the foundation stone for a 100 mld desalination plant at Dahej on November 30, 2019. The Rs 8.81 billion project aims to provide desalinated water to the Petroleum, Chemicals and Petrochemicals Investment Region in Dahej district. Besides, the Delhi government laid the foundation stone for a water treatment plant in Chandrawal under the Delhi Water Supply Improvement Project on June 24, 2019. In another major development, the foundation stone for India’s largest STP was laid on July 8, 2019. The 564 mld STP is being built at Okhla under the Yamuna Action Plan, Phase III.
  • A number of water and sewerage projects were planned/approved during the year. The Maharashtra government approved a new water supply project worth Rs 16.8 billion for Aurangabad city. Besides, the executive committee of the National Mission for Clean Ganga approved the development of STPs with a 39 mld capacity in Daulatganj and 1 mld capacity in Bairikala under the Lucknow sewerage project. The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board plans to increase its water supply by 2,000 mld with the implementation of Stage 5 of the Cauvery Water Supply Scheme. Further, the Andhra Pradesh government approved comprehensive drinking water projects in six districts at a cost of Rs 123.08 billion. The projects aim to cater to the needs of water-starved regions in the state. The Bihar government has planned the Ganga Water Lift Project to supply safe drinking water to water-alarmed regions in the southern part of the state.
  • On the financial front, the MoHUA had planned to incentivise up to 12 ULBs on a first come, first served basis to issue municipal bonds during 2019-20. In August 2019, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation issued the third tranche of municipal bonds worth Rs 1 billion, becoming one of the largest issuers of municipal bonds for raising funds. The Pune Municipal Corporation is also planning to raise Rs 2 billion through municipal bonds for the execution of the 24×7 water supply scheme.
  • Multiple external funding agencies have played a key role in aiding sector development. During the past year, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) committed to lending over $12 billion over the next three years, supporting the government’s flagship programmes such as the Jal Jeevan Mission. Besides, ADB has also approved a loan worth $206 million for the development of water supply and sewerage infrastructure in five cities of Tamil Nadu. Other funding agencies such as the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the World Bank have also extended loans for key projects in the urban water and sewerage sector. While JICA has provided funds for India’s largest STP being constructed at Okhla, the World Bank has approved a loan worth $147 million for provision of services such as water supply, sewerage and drainage in Jharkhand.
  • ULBs have shown greater inclination towards digitalisation and the adoption of advanced technologies in recent years. In March 2019, DJB launched a data acquisition centre for master supervisory control and data acquisition for flow meters to enable real-time monitoring of over 3,000 strategic distribution nodes. The Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board has planned the completion of geographic information system mapping in over 5,000 km of sewerage network spread across the city by March 2020. Further, Suez India Private Limited has plans to open a 24×7 customer care centre in Mangaluru as a part of the 24×7 drinking water project in the city. The customer care centre will address water supply-related grievances in the city.

The urban water segment has received a great impetus in the past year with the launch of water policies at the central and state level. In addition, the wastewater segment witnessed approvals and commissioning of significant projects such as TTRO plants and STPs under the Namami Gange programme. However, overcoming funding constraints and ensuring timely clearances and implementation of projects will play a crucial role in ensuring steady growth of the urban water and sanitation sector.