Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
General studies 3
Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation
Privatisation and Commercialisation of Water in India
The United Nations has recognized access to water as a basic human right, stating that water is a social and cultural good, not merely an economic commodity. Today, due to increasing consumption patterns, water is becoming scarce and this scarcity is an emerging threat to the global population. Global consumption of water is doubling every 20 years, more than twice the rate of human population growth. At present more than one billion people on earth already lack access to fresh drinking water. By the year 2025 the demand for freshwater is expected to rise to 56% above what currently available water can deliver, if current trends persist.
To solve the growing water crisis, the solution that is proposed and pushed by world bodies such as WTO and IMF through international agreements such as GATS is privatization of water, which in effect leads to treatment of water as a commodity. The argument put forth for water privatization is that increased cost for water will promote conservation. This commodification of water has already happened in several developed countries and is being pushed in many developing countries through structural adjustment policies.
During the past decade and half India has been witnessing measures to reform the water sector based on the financial sustainability model put forward by the international institutions based on principles like full cost recovery, rationalisation of water tariffs, privatisation and public private partnerships across urban, rural as well as agricultural sub-sectors. The move is towards privatisation, commercialisation and commodification of water sector.
These efforts to privatise water services have been undertaken through various international institutions like World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and International Finance Corporation (IFC) funded projects, national programs like Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM), Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme in Small and Medium Towns (UIDSSMT) and now under the SMART city initiative and the AMRUT plan for urban development. Where private participation of urban services is envisaged and user costs will be required for covering the expenses of such services including domestic water supplies.
Under these schemes several towns and cities across the country have witnessed privatisation measures being implemented despite people’s opposition and negative opinion against these.
Should India privatise its water?
Water privatization involves transferring of water control and/or water management services to private companies. The water management service may include collection, purification, distribution of water, and waste water treatment in a community. Traditionally this service has been provided by the local governmental infrastructure such as the municipality or local city council.
Arguments favouring privatisation of water:
The pro privatization lobby including water corporations, world bank and IMF has aggressively campaigned for water privatization on the grounds that, while water subsidies promote wasteful practices, commodification of water should allow market forces (supply and demand) to set the water tariff, which in turn will reduce water consumption and promote water conservation. Furthermore, it is argued that opening this sector to private providers, will bring in badly needed capital for upgrading and development of infrastructur
Since 1990, the government, through its reforms, has encouraged private sector projects in the water sector in the hope that transferring the responsibility of water to private companies will bring more transparency and accountability to the process.
The drive to privatise the water sector in India accelerated after the year 2000 when the government of India adopted various reforms suggested by international financial institutions like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
In 2002, the government implemented National Water Policy. As per the policy, “Private sector participation should be encouraged in planning, development and management of water resources projects for diverse use, wherever feasible. Private sector participation may help in introducing innovative ideas, generating financial resources and introducing corporate management and improving service efficiency and accountability to users. Depending upon the specific situations, various combinations of private sector participation, in building, owning, operating, leasing and transferring of water resources facilities, may be considered.”
The PPP model ensures that every bungalow, flat, and slum gets tapped water that is metered and for 24 hours. The largest beneficiaries are the people in the slums who no longer have to wait in queues for six to eight hours to collect their bucket of water.
Arguments against privatisation of water:
Critics argue that there are several lacunae in the urban water sector which are being used as a justification for pushing water privatisation. Lacunae include losses, inefficiency, unreliability, corruption, issues of quality, and mismanagement. All of these are symptoms; the root cause is lack of democratic governance.
If we look at the experiences anywhere in the world with privatisation of water, nowhere has it sustained over a long period of time in a comprehensive manner, encompassing most of, or even large parts of, the urban water sector.
Water is not merely a commodity, and the urban water sector is not just about supplying fresh potable water to people in urban dwellings. The urban water sector also involves multiple layers, including sourcing of water, deciding which is the best among available options, getting potable water through purification plants for equitable distribution through huge infrastructure, and managing the sewage generated through another set of huge infrastructure.
It involves not only creating infrastructure at so many different levels and managing such created infrastructure along with natural sources, but also aims to achieve a sustainable and optimum system. Therefore, the need of the hour is “better governance” or “to improve public water governance” instead of pushing for privatisation of water. India needs a democratic, transparent, accountable and participatory governance in a bottom-up approach, on each aspect of the urban water sector where water privatisation is advocated.
The private sector works on one bottom line: profit maximisation. But the management of water supply is an issue of rights and a basic need, as acknowledged by the judiciary. Moreover, water is embedded in the ecosystem. Any attempt to see water only as a commodity is bound to have multiple disruptive consequences.
The saga of failure
Within a decade the private sector participation projects in the water sector shot up to more than 300. Maharashtra has the maximum number (48 projects) of privatised water followed by Karnataka (26 projects), Tamil Nadu (25 projects), Delhi (20 projects), Rajasthan (17 projects) and Andhra Pradesh (15 projects).
More than 70 percent of the projects are under various stages of implementation and still need to be evaluated. As per a study the global business opportunities related to the water sector are expected to reach one trillion US dollars by 2025.
The unlimited access to water resources by the governments to the private companies has given rise to well developed water markets. Privatisation or private sector participation in the water sector involves hydropower, industrial and domestic water supply, and even irrigation. However, even after opening several fronts for the private companies, the companies have failed to improve water services.
There are more than 20 private sector participation projects that are facing problems in implementation.
For instance, privatisation of Shivnath river for water supply to Borai Industrial Area, Durg in Chhatissgarh; privatisation of domestic water supply in Khandwa and Shivpuri in Madhya Pradesh; Latur, Nagpur and Aurangabad in Maharashtra; Mysore, Hubli-Dharwad and Bangalore in Karnataka and privatisation in Delhi has seen serious social, economic, financial and environmental problems that these projects are facing.
There are various other places where privatisation of water services/ resources is in “troubled waters”. Several of the above mentioned cities have been witnessing people’s campaigns against the privatisation projects.
Local people in these towns and cities are severely impacted due to the conditionalities that the privatisation of water services brings along with it, especially the poor and the marginalised sections of the community.
The conditionalities are being implemented as part of the larger reforms process in the water sector manifest as specific clauses under the concession contracts that range from risky to ridiculous like – control of private companies on domestic water supplies, mandatory household level metering, 24×7 water supply, increasing water tariffs, automatic revision of water tariffs every one to three years (10% hike), ignoring access and coverage of poor and marginalised sections, prohibiting use of local water resources and sharing domestic water within the community, neglecting local water resources, increasing dependence on distant water sources, among others.
Interestingly, all the above projects focus on financial aspects like tariff increases, user charges, full cost recovery, but none of the above discusses in details about the services improvement aspects and better, quality, coverage and access to the local people especially poor and marginalised. There is no private sector regulation act and rules to regulate the functioning of the private sector.
What’s wrong with water privatisation?
It leads to increase in the water tariffs. Price hikes are unaffordable for the poor.
It undermines water quality.
Private companies are not accountable to consumers.
It fosters corruption.
Privatisation reduces local control and public rights.
Private financing cost more than government funding.
It leads to job losses.
Privatisation is hard to reverse.
The poor could be left with no access to clean water.
Privatisation would open the door for bulk water exports.
Creation of water monopolies.
The way forward:
Water is synonymous with life. Water corporations, through world bodies such as World Bank and IMF, are influencing national governments to push privatization and commodification of water as “the chosen” alternative to manage the growth in water consumption and the severe water scarcity. However, the growth in water consumption is highest in the agricultural and industrial areas, where the resources to buy water are readily available with rich farmers and industries. This increase in consumption will be satisfied through the market dynamics often at the cost of the poor who cannot afford the increased water tariffs.
Furthermore, due to the nature of this sector, water privatization, instead of bringing in healthy competition, results in a monopoly sanctioned by the government agencies. Numerous case studies around the world highlight the other ills of water privatization such as poor quality of water, unsustainable water mining and lack of transparency and accountability. From the various studies it can be considered the proposed privatization of water as a violation of basic rights of citizens of India and oppose any means to privatize water in India.
Better and socially responsible alternatives can be found by investing in community based participatory approaches to water management that ensures equitable and sustainable use of this precious natural resource. All over the world, alternate models such as rain water harvesting, check dam and bund building, holistic watershed management, integrated river basin management, and irrigation efficiency improvement have all been demonstrated as low cost successful alternatives to privatization.
Responsible water usage can only be achieved by empowering local communities and creating local accountability. Hence, instead of pushing for privatization as suggested by the national water policy, all stakeholders should call upon the government to develop policies that protect water resources, promote sustainable watershed management and invest in technologies that will increase efficiency in irrigation, industrial usage and improve water harvesting techniques.
Rather than have private management of this resource, better public oversight is needed. Institutional structures with representation from resident welfare associations and social activists can audit distribution network functioning. Transparency in water supply-related data such as pipelines laid, incremental households served, leakages, treated water, efficiency in water usage through pricing usage above a certain threshold, smart metering, rainwater harvesting and more budgetary support are some other measures to achieve this objective in urban areas.
Connecting the dots
National Water Policy (2012) had called for privatisation of water delivery services and suggested that water be priced to “fully recover” the costs of operation and administration of water-resources projects. Critically examine the need for privatisation of water in India.
To solve the growing water crisis, the solution that is proposed and pushed by world bodies such as WTO and IMF through international agreements such as GATS is privatization of water. Do you think India should also privatise its water? Critically analyze.
Discuss the implications of privatisation of water in India. Elucidate why privatising India’s water is a bad idea.
TOPIC: General Studies 2
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health
Development processes and the development industry the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders
Tropical Disease Control
India is tropical country and is largely affected by tropical diseases. The disease burden annually has a cost on the economy of the country also. Government has initiated a number of measures over the years that have contributed to decrease in the spread. WHO has praised India for tackling tropical diseases but concerns remain over rise in leprosy cases.
The London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases is a collaborative disease eradication programme launched on 30 January 2012 in London. It was inspired by the World Health Organization 2020 roadmap to eradicate or negate transmission for neglected tropical diseases.
Officials from WHO, the World Bank, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s 13 leading pharmaceutical companies, and government representatives from US, UK, UAE, Bangladesh, Brazil, Mozambique and Tanzania participated in a joint meeting at the Royal College of Physicians to launch this project.
The meeting was spearheaded by Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO, and Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
This declaration is the largest coordinated effort to date in health issues and it aims to eliminate or control 10 neglected diseases by 2020 by providing more than US$785 million to support research and development.
These diseases are most rampant in the economically deprived regions of the world and affect 1.4 billion people, and are responsible for the persistent backwardness in human development.
India earned an honourable mention in a new WHO report on neglected tropical diseases (NTD), it is also one of the handful of countries around the world that have shown an increase in leprosy cases.
The number of leprosy cases in India went up from 1,25,785 to 1,27,326 between 2014 and 2015.
The report, which was released on the occasion of the second WHO partners meeting on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD), also talked about the fact that India was certified free of Yaws in 2015.
Yaws is a debilitating childhood infection that affected 46,000 people from 8 countries in 2015. This is the fourth NTD report.
According to WHO estimates, one in six people suffer from NTDs worldwide including more than half a billion children.
Among the 18 NTDs the ones that are of concern to India apart from Yaws and leprosy are dengue, chikungunya and viral leishmaniasis.
India’s efforts to eradicate viral leishmaniasis, commonly known as kala azar, have also been commended in the new report — since 2008 VL cases in India, Bangladesh and Nepal have come down by 82%, the report notes, crediting “improvement in vector control, social mobilisation of village volunteers, collaboration with other NTD programmes and drug donations from industry partners.”
In fact in January this year, a new Guinness world record was created for the highest number of drug doses donated in 24 hours.
The WHO target for VL elimination is 2020 but India has set its sights on eliminating it by the end of this year, a roadmap laid down both in the budget speech and the recently unveiled National Health Policy.
There was no ministerial participation from India at the partners meeting with officials of the Directorate General of Health Services representing the Indian health ministry.
At the partners meet new resource commitments were made, with the United Kingdom announcing additional $205 million and Bill Gates announcing another $330 million.
The Belgian government also pledged an additional $27 million.
India should be more aggressive in its spending when it comes to health and thus eliminate vital diseases. This will have long term benefits to the nation. Especially w.r.t. tropical diseases we need to have a policy that is holistic and involve all stakeholders.
Connecting the dots
Elaborate on the efforts of India to counter neglected tropical diseases burden in India.
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