India’s unsustainable urban water management

Asit K. Biswas and Cecilia Tortajada

JAGRAN | March 22, 2023

India’s urban water and wastewater management has been on an unsustainable path for centuries. The situation started to improve, but rather slowly, during the post-independent period of 1947–1980. Thereafter, changes were somewhat higher until 2014. Since 2015, momentum has increased quite significantly, but not enough.

Unfortunately, water has never been high up in Indian political agendas of Prime Ministers or any state Chief Minister on a sustained basis. Historically, they were interested only when there was a heavy flood or a serious drought. The moment flood or drought disappeared, political interest simply evaporated!

Providing safe water supply and proper wastewater management to the urban dwellers of India is not rocket science. India had enough water, investment funds, management and engineering expertise and technology to provide clean water and proper wastewater management since 1980. There was absolutely no technical or economic reason why every urban citizen could not open the tap and drink the water without any potential health concerns. This did not take place primarily due to lack of sustained interest from political leaders from both the Centre and the states.

Solving urban water and wastewater problems needs long-term political commitment. Preparing appropriate plans and implementing those plans, including construction of necessary hydraulic infrastructures, take 20–25 years. Thereafter, continued political interest is still necessary to ensure timely and good operation and maintenance. These cannot be done within 1-2 years, which is the normal timeframe of interest of the Indian politicians.

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