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Swachh Bharat 2.0 and AMRUT 2.0: Towards Cleaner and Water Secure Cities (Part 1/ 2)

“Cleanliness is a great campaign for everyone, every day, every fortnight, every year, generation after generation. Cleanliness is a lifestyle, cleanliness is a life mantra." - PM Narendra Modi

Over the last decade, the central government under the able leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched many schemes that were aimed at achieving a clean and open defecation free India. To this effect, 1st October 2021 marked the refurbishment of two flagship schemes of the central government in the form of the Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (SBM-U) and Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) 2.0. The same is a positive step towards making the Prime Minister’s vision of ‘saturation’ of schemes a reality. On 15th August 2021, the Prime Minter had laid out the government’s aim of attaining full saturation of schemes by moving away from distant deadlines. In line with this approach, these schemes will adopt a “universal approach” with an outlay of 4.4 lakh crores to achieve saturation in the field of sanitation and water availability in all Urban Local Bodies (ULBs). The two said schemes are also aligned with the Centre’s aspiration of making all cities ‘garbage free and water secure’.  

The scheme was launched from the Ambedkar International Centre New Delhi, the same being truly symbolic of the Prime Minister’s credence in the ‘Ambedkarian belief’ of urban development as a crucial means of bridging inequalities as so many individuals from villages migrate into cities with an aspiration of a better life by securing a source of employment. While this is often achieved, the living standards of majority of these individuals continue to remain difficult and challenging. Hence arises a situation of double jeopardy wherein, not only are these individuals away from home but at the same time they also have to endure a poor quality of life while doing so. The Prime Minister’s second phase of Swachh Bharat Mission and AMRUT while being in line with Babasaheb Ambedkar’s vision also attempts at alleviating this inequality. This piece looks at the Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (SBM-U) 2.0 while the forthcoming Part 2 would look at Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) 2.0.

THE SWACHH BHARAT MISSION-URBAN (SBM-U)

On 2nd October 2014, the first phase of the SBM-U was launched. The objective of the same being, making all statuary towns open defecation free, 100 per cent management of solid wastes in all statutory towns and revolutionising a behavioural change through ‘Jan Andolan’. Owing to its 'people first' orientation the mission has managed to reach every corner of the country changing the lives of countless inhabitants over the past seven years. By giving 100 per cent access to sanitation facilities in urban India, the mission changed the sanitation space in the country. Over 70 lakh households, communal and public toilets have been installed as a part of it, ensuring that everyone has access to safe and dignified sanitation. Womens’ and transgender groups' as well as disabled people's issues have all been particularly prioritised by the Mission. The mission enabled various innovations in the digital space as well with measures like geographically navigable SBM Toilets on Goggle Maps and the Swachhata App which is a digital grievance redress platform launched in 2016. 

Building up on the achievements of the SBM-U, SBM-U 2.0 aims to sustain the sanitation and solid waste management outcomes achieved and looks to create a momentum for taking urban India to a “new and enhanced level of swachhata”. During the start of the campaign in 2014, less than 20 per cent of the total waste generated every day in the country was being processed, today India is processing one lakh tonnes of waste every day and amount of daily waste processed has reached 70 per cent with the aim being of achieving 100% of the same. 

Lately, Solid Waste Management (SWM) has emerged a significant development challenge for India. Due to climate conditions, microbial decomposition, land-filling processes and refuse characteristics, improper waste disposal produces several hazardous gases and leachates. Most Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) do not have the adequate infrastructure and face several strategic and institutional shortcomings such as poor institutional capability, financial limits and lack of political will in their attempt at keeping cities and towns clean. Despite the fact that many Indian ULBs get government aid, practically all of them remain financially vulnerable. Additionally, currently India has exhausted most of its available landfill sites and the responsible UBLs do not have the required resources to acquire new areas.

In the light of the above challenges the need for SBM-U 2.0 is felt now more than ever. The financial outlay for the SBM-U 2.0 is set at Rs.1,41,600 crores out of which the central government would be contributing a share of Rs.36,465 crores between the periods of 2021-22 to 2025-2026.

The key components of the scheme can be summarized as follows: 

  • Sustainable Sanitation: The key focus of the scheme is to provide access to sanitation facilities to those segments of the population who have migrated from their villages into urban areas in the hope to find avenues for improved employment and living conditions. This will happen over a five year period through the construction of 3.5 lakh community, individual and public toilets.  
  • Effective Waste Management: Broadly the sources of liquid waste can be classified into four categories: liquid waste from residential areas, liquid waste from commercial areas, liquid waste from industrial areas and storm water. The release of these harmful substances into water sources like groundwater, lake, streams and rivers disrupt its beneficial use and the natural system. Under this mission, all wastewater will be treated properly before it is discharged into water bodies, and the government is trying to make “maximum reuse” a priority. This scheme looks to ensure that all wastewater is contained in a safe manner, collected, transported and treated to ensure that wastewater does not pollute water bodies.

When it comes to solid waste, the scheme aims to achieve at least a “3-star Garbage Free Certification” for all cities as per MoHUA’s Star Rating Protocol for Garbage Free cities.  

Additionally, according to Durga Shanker Mishra, Secretary of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, the government has managed to free up close to 3,500 acres of land under dumpsites from a total of 15,000 acres. With the implementation of SBM-U 2.0 the government aims to free up the entire area and convert it into “Green Zones.”

Another important part of the Mission will be the bioremediation of all legacy dumpsites. Legacy waste are those wastes that have been collected or kept over a long period of time at some barren land or landfill area. 

  • Focus on Source Segregation of Waste: Using the 3Rs principles (Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle), the programme focuses on source segregation of solid waste. Source segregation will be emphasised more in the Sustainable Solid Waste Management programme. Material Recovery Facilities and Waste Processing Facilities will also be built with the goal of phasing out single-use plastic in a gradual and systematic manner.
  • In cities that are participating in the National Clean Air Program, with populations of over 5 lakh, waste processing facilities for construction and demolition will be built and mechanical sweepers will be deployed.  
  • Achieving Open Defecation Free (ODF) status: SBM-U 2.0 looks to achieve an ODF+ status for all statuary towns and an ODF ++ status for all cities that have a population of less than one lakh. 
  • Welfare of Informal Workers: The scheme places a special focus on the well-being of sanitation and informal waste workers.

This will be done through the supply of personal protective equipment and safety kits, as well as linkages to government welfare schemes and capacity building. According to the Prime Minister, the informal sector sanitation workers are the "Mahanayaks" and will carry the mission on their shoulders. 

India accounts for around 18 per cent of the world’s population and around 12 per cent of the global municipal solid waste generation. While the Indian government has put in place various measures for population stabilisation, the same will happen over due course of time.  With the rise in population, the rate of waste generation in the country will also keep growing significantly in the years to come. The increased rates of waste generated will further create challenges in its management. Even though measures like door-door collection of waste are already in place in many Indian cities, the issue at hand remains that of ill-equipped sorting and waste disposal facilities. India generates 62 million tonnes of waste every year out of which 60 per cent is collected while only 15 per cent is processed. Germany has one of the best recycling rates in the world followed by Austria, South Korea and Wales. All these countries manage to recycle around 56 per cent to 52 per cent of their municipal waste. What these countries have in common and what has worked for them when it comes to solid waste management are their effective government policies that encourage recycling including measures like easy household waste recycling mechanisms, good amount of fundings for recycling and various other financial incentives.

In addition to this, clearly set performance targets and policy objectives for local governments make it easier to monitor waste collection activities. With an outlay of 1.4 lakh crore, SBM-U 2.0 is India’s effort in this direction to make the Indian waste management system at par with countries like Germany by adopting world class waste processing and management practises. While issues of waste disposal in tier one cities like Delhi and Mumbai still remain a relevant subject of concern, tier two cities like Lucknow and Bhopal are also rapidly developing. These cities are also witnessing a massive inflow of migrants from the neighbouring rural areas, further adding on to the issue of waste disposal and processing due to increased population. The flagship scheme hence marks a significant step in our march towards addressing the challenges that accompany rapid urbanisation and simultaneously takes India closer to the achievement of its Sustainable Development Goals set for the year 2030. 

This article has been co-authored by Ishita Sirsikar and Kanika Verma.