ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Beyond Catchphrases

Public-private partnerships might compound India's water problems.

The private sector may soon become a major player in India’s water sector. Media reports have it that the centre is giving final shape to a policy that would diminish the role of municipalities and other civic agencies in urban water supply. Private agencies will supply water to about 600-odd cities, including 100 smart cities. The government, it seems, has homed in on public–private partnerships (PPP) as a way to address the troubled issue of supplying water to India’s cities.

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government had broached privatisation of water supplies in its last tenure. The National Water Policy of 2002 talked of PPPs in the water ­sector. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) did not jettison the idea. The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) document devoted a substantial part to PPPs in urban infrastructure, including water supplies. Between 2005 and 2014, PPPs were chalked out to supply water to a few cities, including Nagpur and Mysore. Ministers in the UPA government occasionally issued statements emphasising the urgency of private sector participation in the water sector. But water utilities in the country have, by and large, remained publicly-owned outfits. The National Water Policy of 2012, in fact, gave short shrift to PPPs.

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