Union Budget 2022-23: There is a need for investments in the water and sanitation sector to augment infrastructure with key projects
The Union Budget 2022 is around the corner, and so are the expectations from the government across varied industries. For the water sector, Budget 2022 needs to chart a new vision of making India’s overburdened water infrastructure more sustainable and resilient.
The government has already laid special emphasis in this aspect with the announcement of flagship schemes such as Namami Gange, Jal Jeevan Mission, Atal Bhujal Mission, and more. Such projects have helped in building a foundation that will boost further planning and execution of policies to bolster India’s water infrastructure overall. While these projects will continue providing their benefits, there is still a long way to go.
India is already known to be water-stressed, the demand for water is expected to exceed supply by almost twice by 2030. This is truly an area of concern, which brings us to ponder over a crucial question – how are we planning to relook at building robust water infrastructure in India?
Budget should strengthen our water infrastructure
The upcoming Union Budget can act as a key instrument for the water sector in transforming itself with sustainable practices to achieve social, economic, and environmental benefits. The government must initiate and enforce policies that will help in setting up achievable goals, paving the way for sustainable water management in the country.
Installation of smart water meters
Budget 2022 should prioritise the installation of smart water meters across networks as part of sustainable water management to curb water loss and reduce Non-Revenue Water. While individual municipalities in cities like Pune and Chandigarh have implemented the installation of smart water meters, a national mission to install smart water meters will be a game-changer for India in improving water efficiency and energy savings leading to a positive climate approach.
In 2022, the government’s focus should also be on creating more investment opportunities in India’s water sector. Investments in India’s water and sanitation sector will augment the water infrastructure with key projects across various sub-sectors like irrigation, sewage treatment, wastewater management among others. With this, ongoing government initiatives such as Namami Gange, Jal Jeevan Mission, and Atal Bhujal Mission will also be enhanced, creating a sustainable water ecosystem. The need of the hour is to prioritize the country’s water infrastructure with equal importance as given to public infrastructure facilities.
Leverage PPP model for efficient, sustainable water network
With the right allocation and outlay in place, the Ministry of Jal Shakti can further leverage the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model for establishing an efficient and sustainable water network system that will build upon each other’s offerings. The Budget should also promote the reduction in inefficient regulations and formalities to ease private sector participation in India’s water sector. This will bring in the much-needed expertise, resources, and manpower while ensuring faster execution of ambitious projects.
Create National Tech Mission for water resources management
The Budget has a huge scope in identifying the role of technology for India’s water sector. A separate allocation to create ‘National Technology Mission for Water Resources Management’. The objective should be to provide smart planning and framework for the implementation of smart digital technologies across the water utilities in India for effective implementation of sustainable water practices.
Technology will prove to be an effective tool against various issues such as leakage detection, understanding water demand across districts, remote management of facilities among a host of other services.
Going forward, the government should also consider shifting towards a tender system that prioritises lifecycle costs over the lowest bid. With this, the focus will shift towards the implementation of sustainable technology, driving a positive influence on the climate and environment as overall cost savings. The amount of revenue and resources that will be saved through the lifetime of operating these efficient systems will be far more than the upfront cost of buying these products.
For example, in the Cambodian province of Takéo, the water supply company was supplying drinking water to the small city of Doun Kaev and the surrounding 45 villages of about 44,000 people. With a supply from Roka Khnong Lake, the plant used older models of pumps to distribute treated water out to the network, often resulting in pipe damage, non-revenue water (NRW) water losses, and wasted energy. To tackle this, high-efficiency pumps were installed along with network sensors to predict water consumption patterns. After one year, the plant achieved 20 percent savings in energy use, a 13 percent reduction in NRW water losses due to leakages, and a 29 percent reduction in pipe bursts.
Planning for a better tomorrow
With the Budget focusing on the various parameters of the water infrastructure of the country, integrating sustainable practices will not only benefit in creating a robust water ecosystem, but also for India to achieve its Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets. While India has already laid the groundwork for SDG 6 goal of ‘Clean water and Sanitation for all’, what we expect from Budget 2022 are action plans for the coming years that will determine India’s sustainable approach towards water management.
This also presents an opportunity for the government to meet the UN sustainable goals of SDG 13, that is, taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. The Budget should also look towards providing subsidies on renewable and sustainable technologies for the water sector that will further in establishing the most efficient infrastructure for the country. The advantages of shifting to a sustainable structure will truly help in reduced energy consumption and waste generated, better management of water and resources, enabling a better ecosystem for communities to live in.
The author is Country President, Grundfos India—advanced pumps solutions. Views are personal