Making urbanisation potable

Maharashtra's Sujal Nirmal Abhiyan, a state-led integrated water and sanitation programme, covers all 250 cities except Mumbai and already has 152 urban bodies engaged in a stringent reforms schedule

Water and sanitation are core, basic needs of any society. No amount of spending on healthcare facilities will suffice if we do not have clean drinking water and adequate arrangements for safe disposal of waste. The state of water and sanitation in Indian cities is abysmal, more so when there is increasing evidence that it does not take a great deal to transform the situation.

Thanks to the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) launched by the Government of India in December 2005, the poor state of service delivery in Indian cities has been a subject of much discussion and some action. The mission used project-oriented fund transfers as a driver of change for reforms at the state and the urban local body (ULB) level, to improve the condition of Indian cities. JNNURM has been an experience in learning by doing for all concerned. A full appraisal of the mission will come as the projects are completed and the outcomes assessed, but the mission has certainly raised the ambition of Indian cities.

The most important contribution of JNNURM has been to inject a new dynamism in the much-neglected urban sector and establish credibility that service delivery in Indian cities can be transformed. The good news is that some local and state level responses are emerging, and are worthy of adaptation and emulation. This column has presented a number of case studies of urban transformation.

Maharashtra Sujal Nirmal Abhiyan (MSNA) is a good example of a state-led programme of integrated management of water and sanitation in the era of JNNURM. It covers all ULBs (a total of 250 cities), except Mumbai, for delivering water (24x7) and sanitation in a sustainable manner. Mumbai's problems and challenges are to be addressed separately. Maharashtra used the occasion of its golden jubilee celebrations in 2010 to launch the MSNA. The programme is being implemented by the Maharashtra department of drinking water supply and sanitation with support from Maharashtra Jeevan Pradhikaran (MJP).

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