India showcases progress in water management at the World Bank

Gajendra Singh Shekhawat addressing the inaugural session of the World Bank Water Week Summit 2023, on February 27, 2023, in Washington DC.PHOTO: @gssjodhpur/twitter

Washington DC: India’s Minister of Jal Shakti, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, who was in the nation’s capital to participate in the World Bank Water Week Summit 2023, on February 27, 2023, also interacted with a select group of diaspora members about India’s water sector initiatives at the Embassy of India.

On February 27, Shekhawat addressed the Summit’s inaugural session on Water, Climate, Action, Innovation, and highlighted the challenges India is addressing in the water management sector. He listed implementation plans from a “5P” perspective; political willpower, public funding, partnership, public participation, and sustainable development. Special Secretary, Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Debashree Mukherjee, also spoke on the topic of “What does the future have in store? Securing our future through water shortage.”

Welcoming Shekhawat on February 26 at the Embassy, Deputy Chief of Mission, Ambassador Sripriya Ranganathan, while underscoring the vibrant India-US partnership credited both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joe Biden for the comradery. She also emphasized the integral role of the four million Indian-Americans to the sustaining of this partnership and called out the “energy and enthusiasm” infused by 200,000 Indian students in the country.

During his interaction with diaspora members, Shekhawat talked about several initiatives adopted by India and reminded everyone about the Namami Gange initiative, aimed at rejuvenating India’s sacred River Ganga, which was recognized by the United Nations. Of the 160 submissions from 60 countries, India’s five-billion-dollar Ganga initiative was selected among the first ten in large-scale ecosystem restoration projects in the world.

Gajendra Singh Shekhawat addressing diaspora members in the presence of Sripriya Ranganathan and Jag Mohan at the Embassy of India on February 26, 2023, in Washington DC. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

When asked about his visit to the World Bank, Shekhawat told News India Times on February 26, “It’s basically on the water sector [to discuss] what the countries have achieved and what the countries are working on now. And since India is a pioneer in this sector, the World Bank wanted India to showcase and enlighten the world what we are doing.”

About India’s progress in the Solid and Liquid Waste Management initiative started under Modi’s Swachh Bharat Mission, Shekhawat said, “Prime Minister in 2014, has taken the initiative of Open Defecation Free (ODF) India, and after India achieved that status in 2019, he has initiated another program that was complete sanitation, where we are working on liquid waste management, solid waste management including fecal waste management, plastic waste management, and organic manure…” noting the focus is on maintaining cleanliness in villages, and he was happy that almost 150,000 villages have achieved that status of ODF and “complete sanitation.”

Responding to another question about access to safe sanitation facilities in rural areas and its impact on social, economic, and health aspects, Shekhawat stressed, “When this initiative was taken up, nobody had thought of this, that it is going to give a big boost to the economy and for public health.” He pointed to studies by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, and other organizations that credited the initiative for saving 50,000 Indian Rupees, per household per annum, in health expenditures that were previously associated with conditions that stemmed from poor sanitation infrastructure in the country.

 According to Shekhawat, previously around 300,000 people died yearly because of inadequate sanitation infrastructure, and that number has drastically reduced to a few thousand people now. He also cited Nobel laureate, Michael Kramer’s paper that credited Jal Jeevan Mission’s (JJM) work in saving thousands of lives.

“The [JJM’s] ambition to bring safe drinking water to all rural homes is likely to be highly valuable, preventing around 136,000 child deaths annually,” said the paper co-authored by Kramer and published by the University of Chicago. “We hope to work with the ministry and assist in this effort by testing possible solutions to water quality treatment such as re-chlorination.” The paper also noted more than 50 per cent of the rural population lacked access to clean drinking water in 2019, and that JJM plans to provide individual tap connections to all households by 2024.

In its Water, Sanitation & Hygiene strategy for South Asia, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation noted, “Sanitation is a significant challenge for most South Asian countries, but many are now aggressively pursuing inclusive national sanitation strategies that emphasize safe sanitation. India, in particular, provides a global model for sanitation reform through the government’s Swachh Bharat Mission and a growing network of sanitation operators and utilities that are implementing fecal sludge management.”

The Embassy’s newly appointed, Minister (Community & Personnel) Jag Mohan, while introducing Shekhawat said PM Modi has entrusted him with a critical task of “reversing the water scenario of the country from being water scarce to water secure” and that he is at the forefront in bringing water to millions of households through JJM.



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