At the 4th India Beyond the Pipe Forum Safe Water Network released the Urban Sector Review report, developed in partnership with USAID India, which captures the drinking water supply situation in four cities: Hyderabad, Mumbai, New Delhi and Visakhapatnam. It highlights the rapid emergence of Small Water Enterprises (SWEs) as a response to the inadequate and unsafe supply of drinking water in urban slums.
The Forum also marked the launch of three digital tools developed under the partnership: i) Technology Selection Tool (TST); ii) Plant Assessment Tool (PAT); and iii) Financial Viability Tool (FVT), part of a larger business platform to enable sustainability of SWEs. Aligned with Safe Water Network’s collaboration and partnership with USAID’s Urban WASH Alliance and the e-Governance initiative, we have led efforts to assess the need and use of these digital tools, to enable technology selection based on water quality, to improve governance, monitoring and evaluation of SWEs, and to assess the viability of SWEs at the individual kiosk level and at the aggregator level for meaningful investments.
The discussions around the proposed SWE: Performance Standards for benchmarking the SWEs through the Social, Operational, Financial, Institutional and Environmental sustainability (SOFIE) criteria will help the sector advance beyond an installation CapEx-centric approach to an OpEx-focused sustainability that is much needed today.
This forum leverages outcomes from the Stockholm World Water Week event session ‘Practical Solutions for SWEs’ held on August 31, 2016, that had participation from USAID, World Bank, Government of India and others along with global sector stakeholders, on how adoption of decentralized SWEs can rapidly fill the gap to service more than 4.5 billion people in the world who are beyond safe water, until piped water reaches everyone.
We are delighted to share that the Ministry of Urban Development (MOUD) has announced the inclusion of Urban Small Water Enterprises into the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) of 500 cities. This means SWEs can play a complementary role to piped water supply in addressing the gap in water provision in these cities. Safe Water Network will continue to work with government and other stakeholders to advance this work further.
Kurt Soderlund, CEO, Safe Water Network, opened the event, highlighting the drinking water needs of 4.5 billion people worldwide (WSP/ World Bank), and the important role that small water enterprises can play in fulfilling the vision of Sustainable Development Goal 6.1 for clean, affordable water for all. This requires innovation and collaboration on a massive scale, from the government, funders, private sector and civil society.
In his keynote addess, Honorable Shri Shiv Pal Singh, Director (AMRUT), Ministry of Uban Development, stressed that water is essential to all human activities and creating livelihoods. Currently, 40% of India’s population is urban, with the slum population growing 1.5 times faster than urban cities overall and 60% of the urban population receiving <3 hours of water supply every day from public utilities, while 25% receive it for even less than an hour.
The Government of India has initiated three flagship programmes including AMRUT, which aims to provide basic serices to households in 500 cities. Under AMRUT, water is the first and foremost priority – the Mission focuses on ensuring universal water coverage across Mission towns and covers about 60% of urban India. The MOUD announced the inclusion of Urban SWEs into AMRUT.
In his special address, Jason Singer, Director, Office of Social Sector Initiatives, USAID, notes that as cities expanded, water systems could not keep up with the pace and there was an urgent need to develop basic infrastructure so that the urban poor would have access to basic utilities. Safe Water Network’s footprint of SWEs greatly impacts communities beyond the pipe and creates local entrepreneurs with a sense of ownership. Mr. Singer also launched the three digital tools.
Amanda Gimble presented findings and recommendations from the Urban Sector Review and a debrief on the proceedings of the August 31, 2016 Stockholm World Water Week session that Safe Water Network co-convened with USAID on practical solutions for SWEs, where Honorable Shri Neeraj Mandloi, Joint Secretary, MoUD was the Chief Guest. The report concluded that for a capital investment of INR 4,000 Crores urban SWEs can serve 35 million people, or more than half of the 65 million currently unserved in urban slums. To do so requires developing public-private partnerships and overcoming challenges to scale in the areas of: policy; standards and governance; funding; and implementation mechanisms.