Increasing water security for the urban underserved

Piramal Sarvajal and Center for Water and Sanitation launch the  Composite Water Vulnerability Index Tool (Image: Piramal Sarvajal)
Piramal Sarvajal and Center for Water and Sanitation launch the Composite Water Vulnerability Index Tool (Image: Piramal Sarvajal)

Piramal Sarvajal, the safe drinking water initiative of Piramal Foundation launched a tool named Composite Water Vulnerability Index (CWVI) at its recent webinar on ‘Sustainable water security for urban underserved’ hosted in association with Center for Water and Sanitation (CWAS) and Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT).

The CWVI tool is designed to rank slums on various parameters such as availability, accessibility, reliability, quality and burden of disease. This tool designed by Piramal Sarvajal in partnership with CWAS was demonstrated through a pilot study in 23 slums of Nagpur, in alliance with the Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) that has led the way in smart-city thinking.

The tool looks at direct correlation between improved water and sanitation and reduction in incidence of water borne disease and improved immunity. It can be replicated in ten smart cities in Maharashtra and then scaled-up and administered across various smart cities in India.

The CWVI tool will go a long way in defining and identifying highly vulnerable communities and their specific areas of challenge. This will further help governing bodies to take a more robust approach to resolve the current problem of provision of reliable and safe drinking water to urban beyond-the-pipe communities.

Leveraging technology and innovation along with cloud computing, digital finance and development finance will better equip the country to resolve water management problems. These solutions will also lead to women empowerment by mobilizing them towards community engagement in water.

This webinar was attended by dignitaries from the government, academia, civil society organizations, NGOs and community at large. It was moderated by Prof Dinesh Mehta, CWAS, CEPT University.

“Over the past years, India has made great strides in providing access to improved water sources. To truly achieve our SDG targets, it is imperative for us to focus on ensuring safely managed water and strengthen water security, especially for the urban under-served communities. At Piramal Foundation, we collaborate with like-minded partners as we remain committed in our endeavor to provide access to safe and affordable drinking water for all,” said Dr. Swati Piramal, Vice-Chairperson, Piramal Group and Director Piramal Foundation as a part of her keynote address.

Shri Mahesh Pathak, Principal Secretary, Urban Development Department, Government of Maharashtra underlined the importance of better water management especially waste-water recycling and reuse in his talk. He mentioned that the state government has a policy for waste-water recycling and reuse and many cities – Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur have been practicing it. This can reduce dependence on fresh-water resources and help improve water security.

He suggested that organisations like CEPT and Piramal Foundation can support cities in Maharashtra. This is an opportune moment for such activities as under AMRUT 2.0, that will soon be launched, improving water services will be a key.

Dr. Meera Mehta, Director C-WAS reiterated that access to safe and affordable water is a key to ensure achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation for all. She said that SDG 6.1 also focuses on the universal, equitable and affordable access. She emphasized the need to ensure good quality water for the poor, as well as in schools and health facilities. Role of women and self-help groups in these activities were also underlined.

Dr. K. Viswanath, Lee Kum Kee Professor of Health Communication spoke about how water will be a significant problem leading to all kinds of conflict. He congratulated Piramal Sarvajal on developing an innovative and powerful tool like the Composite Water Vulnerability Index (CWVI) that has the potential to change behavior, especially essential in the post-Covid world.

Speaking specifically on the utility of the CWVI for urban planners, he said, “A tool like this can easily capture in an understandable way, the status of health in these communities. Not only does it allow communities to track their progress over a period of time, but also compare themselves to other communities”.

“This pilot study conducted in Nagpur brings the macro-level challenge to a defined city-level challenge that can be addressed with specific solutions and targeted impact. We hope that the study will serve as an inspiration for other civic bodies to conduct their own assessment, especially for those living in slums, explore the viability of off-grid solutions and determine the willingness to pay for such solutions. At Piramal Sarvajal, we believe that using tools such as the CWVI provides the right impetus to action and believe that this will be adopted widely across India,” said Anuj Sharma, CEO, Piramal Sarvajal.

Hitesh Vaidya, Director, National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) spoke about the increasing levels of urbanization, challenges of providing equitable, reliable and safe drinking water to all, and the need for researched data for better governance of water supply services by Urban Local Bodies (ULBs).

The discussions highlighted sustainable water security options for the urban under-served and the possibility of scaling up CWVI for ranking of slums by other ULBs of Maharashtra and other states. A complementary mix of pipe and off-grid services was highlighted for urban water security amongst other urban water service level benchmarks.

 

About the organisations

Piramal Sarvajal is a mission-driven social enterprise which believes that pure drinking water should be accessible and affordable for everyone. Towards this end, it has designed and deployed innovative solutions for creating affordable access to safe drinking water in underserved areas. It serves 7.25+ lac people daily, through 1800+ touch points across 20 states in India.

The Center for Water and Sanitation (CWAS), at the CEPT Research and Development Foundation, undertakes active research, implementation support and capacity building initiatives in the field of urban water and sanitation. Acting as a thought catalyst and facilitator, CWAS works closely with city and state governments to support them in delivering water and sanitation services in an efficient, effective and equitable manner.