Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) is a success and the focus will continue in efforts to sustain the behavioural change achieved in sanitation(Arvind Yadav/HT PHOTO)
Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) is a success and the focus will continue in efforts to sustain the behavioural change achieved in sanitation(Arvind Yadav/HT PHOTO)

The Green Budget has a vision for a healthier India

Now, focus on operations and maintenance, with the goal to set a high benchmark in water, sanitation and energy.
By Naina Lal Kidwai
PUBLISHED ON JUL 08, 2019 08:08 AM IST

The creation of the Jal Shakti ministry to look at the management of water resources and water supply in an integrated manner is a welcome step.

Working with states to provide piped water connections to each rural household by 2024 is ambitious yet quite achievable given the government’s success in the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) agenda towards an open defecation free (ODF) India through citizen’s movement and other initiatives.

Indeed, the creation of local infrastructure for source sustainability like rain water harvesting, ground water recharge and the management of household waste water for reuse in agriculture is an exciting framework for implementation, from the private sector participation perspective as well. Such a move is certainly going to attract businesses particularly in the creation of infrastructure and waste water treatment plants. It is also heartening to see an additional budgetary provision for addressing nearly 1,600 rural blocks which are over exploited, under the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA).

As rightly highlighted by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her Budget speech, SBM-G (Gramin) is a success and the focus will continue in efforts to sustain the behavioural change achieved in sanitation, Besides, on the sanitation front, the Union Budget 2019 has spoken of the latest technologies being made available to transform waste into energy which includes solid waste management as also faecal sludge.

Faecal sludge management is a critical aspect of improved sanitation in the years to come. I also see merit in proposing initiatives and schemes being covered by other departments than DDWS which are likely to complement the efforts to sustain the ODF status of the country. PMAY-G is one such example, where 1.95 crore houses are proposed to be built over the next two years with amenities like toilets, electricity and LPG connections.

Among other things, I have noted with great interest that more than 45,000 public and community toilets across 1,700 cities have been uploaded on Google Maps covering more than 53% of India’s urban population. Indeed, it would be worthwhile to focus on their operations and maintenance and see whether other players — including from the private sector — can come forward to contribute to set a higher benchmark of sanitation services. One crore rupees worth of loans for Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises within 59 minutes will certainly boost entrepreneurship, including sanitation entrepreneurship in retrofitting, maintenance, conveyance and treatment of waste and related ventures.

The creation of a new investment platform under the aegis of SEBI for allowing raising of equity by social enterprises is a good start for innovative financing for the social sector. Investment in robots and mechanisation to improve the lot of manual sanitation workers was mentioned specifically by the finance minister in her speech . Encouraging women entrepreneurship through Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency Bank, Stand Up India and the self-help group movement will help create grassroots entrepreneurs in the style of the “solar mamas” in the renewables sector.

Green jobs in areas like provision of water, sanitation and renewable energy will be required in large numbers to take forward these programmes, even as they help us achieve a greener, cleaner and healthier India. The 2019 Budget vision in the areas of water, sanitation and renewable energy is indeed laudable.

Naina Lal Kidwai is global commissioner for the Economy and Climate, and chair, Sustainability Council, FICCI

The views expressed are personal

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