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Government of India
Ministry of Finance
31-May-2018 19:11 IST
Two Day Thematic Seminar on ‘Water and Sanitation’ in a run-up to 3rd Annual Meeting of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) begins in Pune ?, Maharashtra? ; Experts call for a holistic and integrated approach on Water and Sanitation Management.

While India is making significant strides in Water and Sanitation Sector, what is needed is holistic  and integrated approach and public participation in sustainability of outcomes opined various experts at the two-day thematic seminar on Water and Sanitation which began in Pune, Maharashtra today. This was hosted by the Ministry of Finance, Government of India in collaboration with Research and Information System (RIS) for Developing Countries as Knowledge Partner along with Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and Mahratta Chamber of Commerce Industries and Agriculture (MCCIA). Given Pune’s importance of successful intervention in sanitation, this city has been selected for hosting the two-day deliberations.  Thethematic Conference on Water and Sanitation is one of the eight events being organized by the Ministry of Finance and 7th in the series in a lead-up to the AIIB’s 3rd Annual Meeting which ,in turn, is scheduled to be held in June 2018 in Mumbai.

 

The Panel Discussions included various experts in the fields relating to water and sanitation sector who deliberated on various issues including efficient water management, drinking water, sanitation infrastructure and waste management, financing and regulatory issues amongst others. Mr. Parameshwaran Iyer, Secretary, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government of India, Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, Founder Sulabh International, Dr. Seshadri Chari, Member Governing Council, RIS, Dr Kumar V Pratap Joint Secretary (IPF) Ministry of Finance, Government of India, Professor Amitabh Kundu , Distinguished Fellow , RIS and ex Dean JNU, Mukund Vasudevan Co - chair FICCI Water Mission, Ms Jyoti Vij Deputy Secretary General FICCI were present among others on the occasion. 

 

Mr. Parameshwaran Iyer, Secretary, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation in his Lead Presentation discussed how Swachh Bharat Mission has made significant changes in the sanitation sector with pioneering bold initiatives by various States to tackle the menace of open defecation. The biggest game changer was the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi putting Swachh Bharat on the top of the Development Agenda. He said that the mission is unique with a focus on not just building infrastructure but also on bringing about behavioral change and a shift in focus from output to outcome. There is also focus on verification and sustainability of program with expert group looking at independent verification. He said that this is a peoples’ movement. Mr. Iyer said that over 7.5 crores toilets have been built in last 3.5 years. 3.7 lakh villages, 385 districts in 17 States have been declared Open Defecation Free (ODF). He said that the economic and health impact of sanitation program is significant. The Government will move towards outcome based financing and shall focus on functionality approach, he added. Highlighting the innovative successes in sanitation sector in India, he referred to the wide use of Twin-pit toilets which are the most well-suited toilet technology for large parts of rural India, recommended by the Government of India and the World Health Organisation.

 

With respect to water management, Mr. Parameshwaran Iyer said that Government of India recently launched 'Swajal’ - a community led drinking water project aimed at providing sustainable and adequate drinking water in an integrated manner in rural areas. This project aims at empowerment of village communities and is based on the principle that services should be delivered at the lowest appropriate level. The Government will play the role of facilitator and will provide the necessary technical and financial assistance. for this will be provided by the Government. 

 

Earlier, speaking on the occasion, Dr. Kumar V Pratap, Joint Secretary (IPF), Ministry of Finance, Government of India said that water is unique amongst all the infrastructure sectors with 85 % water utilities worldwide being publicly  owned and operated. It is a difficult sector for private players to get in. He said that the worldwide, minimum private investment has come in water and sewage sector. In India, cost recovery is less than 20 percent in urban areas which is a challenge. However, there have been successful PPP projects in developing countries like Philippines. It is important to price water rightly to achieve financial and social objectives. Poor do not benefit from low user charges. The subsidies must be on connections and not actual consumption/usage of water. 

 

In his Opening Remarks, Dr.Amitabh Kundu said that India has 2.4 percent of global habitable land, and 4 percent of water resources, but has a huge challenge of feeding 17 percent of the world population. There are challenges to be addressed with regard to cropping pattern, infrastructure and investment.   

 

Dr. Seshadri Chari, Member, Governing Council, RIS in his address said that the problem of water and sanitation is becoming acute as the development process goes forward. There is no alternative to water, even though we have alternative to use of water. He said that we need to become more serious about the nature of the problem. We need more institutions like FICCI to partner with the Government on this issue which touches everybody's lives. Conservation of water is an age old value in India, alluding to this, Mr. Chari stressed on ‘Jal hi Jeevan Hai’ or the importance of water for all.  

 

Mr. Mukund Vasudevan, Co- chair, FICCI in his Welcome Address said while there are a lot of commendable initiatives undertaken in the area of water and sanitation by institutes and individuals, the scale of multi-pronged problems should be highlighted. There exists supply, demand and infrastructure issues for which the Government interventions are required as nobody can match the scale at which the Government can execute programs. With increasing awareness, enabling infrastructure, getting funding, addressing problems using viable technologies and the Government’s support, this is a solvable problem. He said that FICCI has constituted the water mission to catalyse a dialogue and work with Government on policy changes. 

 

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