Technology & innovation to play key role in taking big steps in water and sanitation sector: Amitabh Kant

New Delhi: Mr Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog today said that India has achieved ambitious targets in the area of water and sanitation in the last 6 years. Owing to the success of the Swachh Barat Mission, all our villages, districts and states are open defecation free. The focus now is on the solid and liquid waste management under the ODF+ framework, he added.

Speaking at the Fireside Chat ‘Financing of the SDGs’ with Ms Naina Lal Kidwai, Past President, FICCI and Chair, ISC, during the India Sanitation Conclave, Mr Kant said that the private sector has a critical role to play and we have to identify investment opportunities in the WASH sector. Government can be a policy maker but all of us, including the private sector, have to join hands in transforming the sanitation and water landscape of India.”

Highlighting the business opportunities in water and sanitation sector, Mr Kant said that under the India Investment Grid, the Department of Industries has identified over 1800 opportunities in this sector amounting to over $ 290 billion. These are in the areas of water treatment plant, sewage collection, treatment, disposal, solid waste management and private sector must participate in these opportunities, he added.

“In the long run, we need commercial financial entities in the private sector who can play a key role. We need to attract both debt and equity in this sector with commercially viable projects,” Mr Kant said.

“Given the scale and the challenge, only technology can provide last mile solution and hardware innovation where businesses develop lower cost and more sustained WASH products is an area of big investment opportunity. There has been a push to encourage innovative solutions in water and sanitation sector,” said Mr Kant.

He emphasized that the WASH sector needs right structured projects with different business models. “Solution-oriented partnerships are the need of the hour in the WASH sector and the private sector has a huge role to play in driving technology and innovation. Research and innovation led by the private sector in designing and implementing along with supporting the government’s effort to reach the last mile is critical,” noted Mr Kant.

He further stated that NITI Aayog is working on different models of structuring that will enable funds to flow into this sector. “We need to create good private sector model, allow debt and equity financing to flow in and we are working on this,” added Mr Kant.

Highlighting the innovative technology adopted by the North East in the water and sanitation sector Mr Kant said, “The solutions have to be highly localized so that there is socio-cultural legitimacy among the local communities. This enables localized maintenance of the technology in the future.”

Ms Naina Lal Kidwai, Past President, FICIC and Chair, ISC said that the three most critical questions that underline the drive to finance sustainable development include how to drive more resources towards the goals; how can ensure that they are going where they are needed most and are they being used in the most effective way.

“There is a view that the financing gap is symptomatic of a business model gap and can prove to be a good starting point to reduce costs, address certain risk issues and catalyze private sector solutions,” she added.