India’s water challenges are profound

Posted 3 July 2017

On Monday 26 June, the Australian Water Association participated in an executive breakfast seminar which was hosted by the Australian Government (Austrade) on “India’s national urbanisation initiatives – opportunities for trade in resilience”. The speaker was Mr Vikram Mehta, Chairman of the Brookings Institute India, an affiliate of the Washington based Brookings Institution, which has been ranked as the most influential think tank in the world for nine consecutive years.

India continues to face significant challenges when it comes to the urban densification of its cities. The greatest challenge is net migration, where an estimated 900 million people will live in India’s cities by 2050. This will place stress on India’s natural resources including its urban water systems and the overall resilience of its cities when responding to climate change. Further to this, over 50% of the population is less than 25 years old and India is set to become the youngest country by 2020.

Unfortunately, the capacity of individuals and institutions is preventing the introduction of new technologies. At the same time, large private firms are heavily over-leveraged, making investment from the private sector difficult. Smart solutions are seen as a way to address these challenges but Mr Mehta warned that these solutions have the potential to exacerbate social inequalities if not properly managed.

This is what makes India’s Smart Cities Mission such a pivotal effort. Launched under Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015, it is an ambitious multiyear effort to boost economic development, technological innovation, and sustainable growth across 109 Indian cities. Cities will employ a variety of measures to achieve this goal, of which investment in water services will need to play a role. 

With a projected $15 billion investment from both national and state governments, the Smart Cities Mission represents one of the largest capital investments in emerging markets’ urban capacity. However, the proposals submitted to date do not sufficiently address basic service gaps in water supply, sanitation, solid waste management and energy, the foundation upon which socio-economic growth rests. 

The fortunate side is that the challenges India faces are also being experienced in Australia, to different extents. As a result, the Australian Government is looking to lead a delegation of professionals to Australia Business Week in India from 28 August to 1 September 2017. 

The purpose will be to promote Australian capability within many services, including water, while expanding Australia’s trade relationships. The program consists of a Smart Infrastructure stream which provides opportunities for Australian Water Association members to promote their city water solutions to identify commercial opportunities in India.
This opportunity is limited to 30 delegates, if you are interested please visit the Austrade website or contact the Association’s international team for further information.