View from India: Garbage-free cities and clean rivers key to economic growth

On October 2, India celebrated the 152nd birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation. On the eve of Gandhi Jayanti, prime minister Narendra Modi launched two flagship missions

Prime minister Modi first unveiled 'Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (SBM-U) 2.0', an endeavour to make India's cities garbage free. The second mission is 'Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) 2.0', a move towards making cities water secure.

Modi recalled that when the Swachh Bharat Mission began in 2014, countrymen pledged to make India 'open defecation free' (ODF) and they fulfilled this pledge with the construction of more than 10 crore toilets. Now the goal of 'Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban 2.0' is to make the cities garbage-free - i.e. completely free of garbage.

The garbage will be processed and removed as part of the Swachta second phase. “With this second phase, we also aim sewage and safety management, making cities water-secure and ensuring that dirty nullahs or drains don't merge into rivers,” said Modi. As reported by local media, Modi has indicated that cleanliness is not just for a day, fortnight or year, it is a mega campaign for everyday, for everyone to take part in it.

India processes about 1 lakh tonnes of waste every day. “When we started the campaign in 2014, less than 20 per cent of the waste was being processed. Today, we are processing about 70 per cent of daily waste. Now we have to take it to 100 per cent,” Modi added. The mission will focus on source segregation of solid waste and utilise the principles of 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle). The plan will also extend to the scientific processing of all types of municipal solid waste and remediation of legacy dumpsites for effective solid-waste management, the PM's office said.

Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban 2.0 aims to make all cities 'garbage free.' The vision also extends towards grey and black water management in all cities other than those covered under AMRUT. The outlay is to make all urban local bodies 'open defecation free+' and those with a population of less than one lakh as 'open defecation free++', thereby achieving the vision of safe sanitation in urban areas.

Keeping cities garbage free and de-clogging water bodies can contribute towards the achievement of the government's Sustainable Development Goals 2030. Technology can be leveraged to meet the goal. Garbage processing broadly involves several stages such as segregation, processing and recycling, which require monitoring. Many of these stages are managed manually. Rather than manual interventions, it could become a tech-driven exercise. This in turn may give rise to waste management companies that can tailor solutions depending on the requirement. Generally speaking, sensors can alert the companies when the garbage bins are full. Screening solutions may well help in sorting and recycling the garbage, as some of the waste needs to be treated before being recycled or reused. The use of modern technology is also continuously evolving for the development of cities in the country.   

Modi underlined the scope of the country's target in the next phase of Mission AMRUT as, "Improving sewage and septic management, making cities water safe cities and ensuring that no sewage drains anywhere into rivers". AMRUT was announced in 2015 to focus on water supply, sewerage and septage management; storm water drainage to reduce flooding; non-motorised urban transport, and green space/parks. Coming to AMRUT 2.0, it will adopt the principles of a circular economy and promote conservation and rejuvenation of surface and groundwater bodies. The mission will leverage technology for data-led governance in water management. Hopefully this could lead to startups offering specialised water management solutions.

Modi has also launched the Jal Jeevan Mission mobile app. The purpose is to improve awareness among stakeholders and for greater transparency and accountability of schemes under the initiative. This is not just to make water accessible to the people, but also doubles up as a big movement of decentralisation. It can be described as a village-driven, women-driven movement. Women, who used to cover long distances to fetch drinking water, will be empowered through the app. The number of households that got water, its quality and details of water supply scheme will be available on the app. The app will contain information about the village and will also encompass water quality monitoring and surveillance framework, which can go a long way in maintaining water quality. The app will aid the village folk to keep a close watch on the purity of their water. PM first announced the Jal Jeevan Mission in 2019 to provide Functional Household Tap Connection (FHTC) to every home by 2024.

Fondly known as Bapu, Mahatma Gandhi won global accolades for his unwavering belief in 'Swaraj' (self-governance) and 'Ahimsa' (non-violence). Gandhiji was born in Porbandar in Gujarat and his birth anniversary is celebrated worldwide as the International Day of Non-Violence.  

Rajnath Singh, Union Minister for Defence, unveiled the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Lakshadweep Island. Also to mark the occasion, the Flag of India was unfurled in the snow-capped region of Leh, Ladakh. What makes this particular flag unique is that it is the world's largest Khadi national flag. The flag weighs 1,000kg and is 225-feet long and 150-feet wide. It is a moment of pride for the country.

"Tributes to the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi on his birth anniversary. I bow to respected Bapu on Gandhi Jayanti. The life and ideals of Pujya Bapu will continue to inspire every generation of the country to walk on the path of duty. His noble principles are globally relevant and give strength to millions," Modi tweeted.

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