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

These two articles have focused on two flagship schemes of the Government of India that intend to make Indian cities ‘garbage free and water secure’, namely, Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0 and Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation 2.0.  The first of these two articles focused on Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (SBM-U) 2.0. This article focuses on the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) 2.0 and its aim to make Indian cities water secure. 

The fundamental purpose of AMRUT can be classified intro three broad categories: First, ensure water availability in every household through an assured tap and sewerage connection. Second, develop cities by ensuring well maintained open and green spaces thereby increasing the amenity value of cities. Third, enhancing the existing non-motor transport facilities like footpaths and cycle tracks with the aim of reducing motor pollution.  With AMRUT 2.0 the government aims to move one step closer to realising its vision of Aatmanirbhar Bharat  by ensuring a circular economy of water that fosters “water secure” and “self-sustainable” cities.

Why is water security a prerequisite for Indian cities?  

According to a McKinsey report (2010), India’s urban population is likely to reach 590 million by 2030, accounting for forty per cent of the country’s total population. Further, Indian metropolises will increase in size and their number grow to 68. The increasing focus on urbanisation and the resulting inflow of migrants from other parts of the country will lead to an expanding urban agglomeration in India generating immense pressure on the manufacturing and delivery of infrastructure. 

When it comes to water availability and supply in households, only 70.6 per cent people use tap water, 20.8 per cent have access to hand pump and tube wells and 6.2 per cent have access to well water as the main source of drinking water. The following table provides the percentage of households and their main sources of drinking water. 

Sources of Drinking water (in percentage): 

Source

URBAN

RURAL

TOTAL

Access to tap water

70.6

30.8

43.5

Access to well water

6.2

13.3

11

Access to hand pumps

20.8

51.9

42

Other Sources (Bottled water& Tankers)

2.5

4

3.5

Source: Census 2011

The major bottlenecks that the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) face when it comes to water management can be summarised into the following three points: 

1.    Depleting Water Resources: The biggest challenge that India faces in providing water for all is the imbalanced ratio in our population and water resources. India is home to seventeen per cent of the world’s population and only four percent of its total fresh water resources. The demand-supply balance of water has become more critical in recent years due to unequal use of water for agricultural purposes, excessive ground water pumping, and irregular monsoon. According to the NITI Aayog, India is undergoing a water crisis, with roughly half of the population experiencing severe water shortages. Further, the rapid rate of pollution of water bodies and depleting ground water levels are an added area of concern. 

2.    Capacity limits & Fragmented Institutional Set-up: A key issue in the delivery of urban services has been the proliferation of agencies with overlapping jurisdictions and fragmented duties and responsibilities. More importantly, municipalities have often faced a shortage of trained supervisors and qualified technical staff on one hand, and an overstaffing of untrained manpower on the other. 

3.    Disparities in Network Coverage of Water Supply: Water supply network coverage continues to be a challenge as cities expand to include rural towns. As the demand for water rises, ULBs become more reliant on distant sources, resulting in higher transmission losses and high energy costs. Improving service delivery in slums and peri-urban/expanded areas is a problem that must be addressed promptly in order to meet the Sustainable Development Goal of sustainable water management for all by 2030. 

AMRUT 2.0

In the context of the ongoing issues connected to water management and water supply, AMRUT 2.0 has emerged as a much needed boon to tackle water scarcity issues.  Launched in 2015, AMRUT 1.0 was the first to be a “water focused” mission. The project had an outlay of INR 1,00,000 crore and catered to 500 major cities covering around 60 per cent of the Indian urban population. Under AMRUT 1.0, 1.14 crore tap water connections have been provided, in addition to 85 Lakhs sewer connections taking the total coverage to 2.32 crore connections. The project aimed to establish a sewage treatment capacity of 6,000 Mega Litres per Day (MLD), out of which a capacity of 1,800 MLD has already been developed. Under the green space projects initiative of the scheme, 3,850 acres of permeable green spaces have been added and 2,200 water logging points have been eliminated. Further, more than 89 lakh conventional street lights have been replaced with energy efficient LED lights.  This has led to 195 crore units per annum of energy savings. 

The mission has also made significant success in its reform component. Over 164 cities have received an Investible Grade Rating (IGR), with 36 receiving an A- or higher. Ten Urban Local Bodies (ULBs), including Ahmedabad, Amravati, Pune, Visakhapatnam, and Lucknow, have raised INR 3,840 crore through municipal bonds. In total, 2,471 cities, including 455 AMRUT cities, have implemented the Online Building Permission System. The reforms undertaken under the mission have led to a considerable improvement in India’s Ease of Doing Business ranking when it comes to construction permits. India went from a rank of 181 in 2018 to a rank of 27 in 2020. 

Building on the achievements of AMRUT, AMRUT 2.0 looks to make around 4,700 cities or towns water secure. The mission will promote a circular economy of water by addressing water needs, rejuvenating water bodies, enhancing management of aquifers and looking for avenues to reuse treated waste water sustainably. The circular economy thinking believes that all water deficient environments should optimise water usage by using all possible strategies. These strategies may include optimizing irrigational use of water in agriculture, reuse of treated wastewater as drinking water and recuperation of rain water. The mission has a total outlay of INR 2,97,000 crore out of which the centre will share a sum of INR 76,760 crore.

Revolutions brought about by AMURT 2.0: 

  1. Focus on Universal Coverage: AMRUT 2.0 looks to provide 100 per cent water supply coverage to all households in around 4,700 ULBs through installation of 2.68 crore household tap connections. It will also provide 100 per cent coverage of sewerage through more than 2.64 sewer connections in 500 AMRUT cities. The mission aims to up-scale from 500 cities covered initially under AMRUT, to cover all 4,372 cities essentially covering the entire urban Indian population. 
  2. Sustainable Management of Water Bodies: To supplement sustainable fresh water supply, water bodies will be rejuvenated along with management of urban aquifers. The reuse and recycling of treated wastewater is estimated to meet 20 per cent of total water needs in cities and 40 per cent of industrial demand. Fresh water bodies shall be preserved against pollution as part of the mission, ensuring the long-term viability of natural resources.
  3. City Water Balance Plan: To promote the concept of circular economy of water, the project looks at the formation of ‘City Water Balance Plan,’ which is a detailed plan for each city focusing on recycle/reuse of treated waste or sewage, water conservation and rejuvenation of water bodies. 
  4. Encourage Digital Economy: The mission is predominantly paperless. “Pey Jal Survekshan” will be done in cities to ensure equitable water distribution, wastewater reuse, and mapping of water bodies based on amount and quality of water. For this, the Water Technology Sub-Mission will take advantage of the most cutting-edge worldwide water technologies. 
  5. Promotion of a Gig Economy and Capacity Building: With the agenda to promote Aatmanirbhar Bharat, the mission looks to provide a platform for multiple startups and entrepreneurs. This will not only lead to the promotion of a Gig economy but would also help in getting the youth on-board with the mission. The public will be made aware of the importance of water conservation through an information, education, and communication campaign. Contractors, plumbers, plant operators, students, women, and other stakeholders will all participate in a target-based capacity-building programme.
  6. Promotion of Public Private Partnership: The mission has mandated for all cities that have a population of over a million people to take up PPP projects which would be worth a minimum of ten per cent of their total project fund allocations. 

Access to safe drinking water is crucial to the well-being and development of any country. Sustainable Development Goal 6: “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” points towards this. Water connects every aspect of life. According to MIT researchers, more than half of the world's population will live in water-stressed regions by 2050. Since 1990, more than 2.5 billion people have acquired access to better drinking water sources, while 666 million remain without one.

Providing access to safe water and sanitation facilities at home, assists people in saving time spent in travelling to far off distances to fetch water thereby allowing families to focus on education and employment options and in the final analysis helping them to break the cycle of poverty. To this end, AMRUT 2.0 has a strong reform agenda that stresses the need to strengthen ULBs and make cities completely water secure. With major reforms initiated like rejuvenation of water bodies, rain water harvesting, reduction of non-revenue water and dual piping system for bulk users, India will be able to move closer to achieve its vision of Water for All.

This article has been co-authored by Ishita Sirsikar and Aarushi Aggarwal.