Sustainability and financial viability of urban water supply and sanitation in dryland areas in India - Case study of Indore city
The simultaneous attainment of financial, environmental and social sustainability of urban services is an important requirement of development. Given the huge investments that are being made in the improvement of urban infrastructure and services in India, it is of the utmost importance that these investments are made in a manner that brings about the greatest good of the greatest number in a sustainable manner. Within urban infrastructure the supply of water and its disposal after use in cities has become one of the most problematic aspects of planning and management.
22 Dec 2012
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Slum area in Indore 

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This is because water has to be brought from distant sources and the wastewater needs to be treated before being discharged into natural water bodies or rivers. Urban planning cannot be undertaken unless the water supply and wastewater disposal is first accounted for. In dryland areas which are physically water scarce and constitute some 70 per cent of the country, the problem becomes even more acute as the costs associated with setting up and running Water Supply and Sanitation (WSS) services go up exponentially. 

The situation is particularly problematical in this regard in Indore which is the largest city of Madhya Pradesh. The city is situated on the dry Malwa Plateau which is naturally water scarce similar to most parts of western, northwestern, central and peninsular India. The city also has a fairly long history of urban planning from the early twentieth century providing rich material for a critical study.

This study by Rahul Banerjee critically reviews the financial, environmental and social sustainability of urban water supply and sanitation infrastructure and services in the city based on a secondary review of the documents of the Indore Municipal Corporation and other sources and suggests remedial measures. The research questions were -

  • How viable are the proposed developments of WSS under the Asian Development Bank (ADB) plan and the JNNURM in the context of current natural and financial resource endowment of the Indore Municipal Corporation and the economic situation of the population in general and the poor in particular.
  • What are the possible improvements in WSS provisioning and governance in the city.

The study recommends that -

  • A Geographical Information System (GIS) must be used to map all the properties within the municipal limits and then grade them according to zones and building quality for determination of adequate property tax rates. The share of property taxes must increase substantially to at least 30 per cent of revenue receipts and the per capita tax realisation too should reach Rs. 700. The tax collection system must be improved drastically and penal measures taken against defaulters.
  • A proper inventory of the WSS systems in the city has to be prepared including both surface and ground water and the storm and waste water disposal systems. Currently there are radio frequency sensor based instruments and computer softwares to accomplish this quite easily. Only then can an authentic water demand and waste water and storm water generation scenario be chalked out for planning of services. Despite clear directions from the ADB and the Central Ground Water Authority in this regard no progress has been made so far.
  • The use of Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) principles, which have now been recommended by the National Mission for Sustainable Habitat also, should be used to design a hybrid ground cum surface water system of water supply. This should be augmented by storm water recharge and waste water treatment, reuse and recharge done in a decentralised manner. This hybrid system will be much more sustainable in financial, social and environmental terms than the wholly centralised system being used at present. The centralised systems should be used only where necessary to provide services to the congested poverty pockets where there might not be space available for decentralised solutions.
  • Instead of relying on taxes, user charges and grants to fund hugely expensive centralised systems, this alternative system would put the onus on the more affluent citizens, corporations, private commercial establishments and government institutions who are in possession of a considerable portion of urban land to tackle their water supply and waste water disposal needs in a decentralised manner from their own resources. This would then free the Indore Municipal Corporation resources for provision of free or subsidised WSS services to the poor and the lower middle class who are not in a position to pay for them wholly.
  • Detailed surveys and design should be carried out to determine the actual benefit/cost ratio and EIRR and FIRR of such an alternative plan and then compare it with the surface water only alternative that has been implemented so far. Most probably the former will turn out to be more suitable for Indore. If so then this alternative plan should be implemented forthwith.
  • The detailed plan for artificial recharge in the Gambhir and Shipra River Basins drawn up the Central Ground Water Board should be implemented without any delay so as to improve the overall availability of water in the catchment of Indore city.
  • Solar power should be used for the Narmada water supply.

Contact details:

Rahul Banerjee
74 Krishnodayanagar
Khandwa naka
Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India - 452001
Cell No:             +91 9425943023            

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