Making 24x7 Water Supply a Reality Across India
India has quickly evolved and grown to become a super power in today's global scenario. The will and handwork of its citizens and favorable economic conditions have allowed this. Now, it needs to adapt and learn how to sustain itself. With a population of 1.2 billion people and counting, it is safe to say that India has long reached its tipping point, and must now take focused measures.
It is clear that with the growing demands, any government with their existing resources is unable to provide stable and well-built infrastructure such as roads, health care, electricity, water and waste management. Even with 2013-2014 witnessinga gross tax collection of ₹13.64 trillion (US$210 billion) and not including regulatory fees collected, our nation struggles to create adequate systems. One must take into consideration that the government makes very tough decision regarding the expenditure of this money and must prioritize amongst several other aspects such as scientific research, agricultural support and military defense, to name a few.
However, a solution has emerged in the form of Public Private Partnerships (PPP), a model wherein the government works with either one or a consortium of private companies, in order to achieve goals. A great example of this is Nagpur. The city has successfully implemented India's first ambitious 24x7 water supply scheme, in partnership with Veolia. With a population 2.7 millions people, this project has proven to be a great challenge, an experiment and a model to be followed across the nation. The PPP venture has been been functional for the last three years.
Similarly, another PPP explored a 200 MLD waste water treatment and reuse project. Treated waste water was to be sold to nearby thermal power plants and industries.
A leading expert in the field of PPP, Mr. Arun Lakhani, MD of Vishvaraj Infrastructures, believes PPPs to be the best way forward in tackling India's growing needs. "Going the extra mile, is what Private players are great at. Innovation is the key and can only be achieved when the government works with companies and keeps the People in the loop"
With success stories such as the one unfolding in Nagpur, it is time to apply what we have learnt to other parts of India. In fact, as of 2015 several states and cities have already begun signing PPP agreements, especially in the water supply and waste water treatment sectors. Punjab, Haryana, Panchkula, Gurgaon, Faridabad and Karnal are some of these.
The big question posed by the government and the public is "How can PPP help with water related issues?"The answer lies in the way private companies function. Known to be process driven and financially more resourceful, private sector players carry all the ingredients needed to implement large scale infrastructure projects. Significant investments are needed despite government announcements of creating Smart cities and AMRUT schemes. In addition, challenges such as tariff revision to meet operating costs, revenue collection risk and lack of base line data for analysis also need to be overcome.
After Nagpur, Haryana and Punjab plan to implement state-of-the-art water supply systems and water waste management protocols. PPPs would improve efficiency in water systems, water treatment plants and in the reuse of water. Depletion in groundwater, in these agriculturally important locations, has made them the ideal choice for this model.
"It is imperative to take action before it is too late. It is the responsibility of every citizen and more so of companies, capable of making a difference.", stated Mr. Lakhani.
However, Private companies face their own issues when trying to assist the nation. PPP models have not seen much expansion in the last few years. In order to be successful, political and administrative will is needed but more importantly the involvement of individual citizens. The largest obstacle comes in the way of financial risk mitigation. A structured system is needed to ensure that local bodies are able to fund the developments needed through appropriate channels.