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General Studies 2 >> Governance

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1. Context
Approximately 36% of India’s population currently resides in cities, and this figure is expected to exceed 50% by 2047. According to World Bank estimates, around $840 billion will be needed to fund the essential urban infrastructure over the next 15 years. The AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation) scheme, a flagship program initiated by the government in June 2015, had its 2.0 version launched on October 1, 2021.
2. AMRUT Scheme

The Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) is a Government of India initiative launched in June 2015 to improve basic civic amenities in urban areas. This mission aimed to address critical infrastructure challenges in water, mobility, and pollution through a combination of central financial assistance and resource mobilization by states and cities.

Key Objectives of AMRUT

  • Ensure every household has access to a tap with a guaranteed water supply and a sewerage connection.
  • Increase the amenity value of cities by developing well-maintained parks and green spaces.
  • Reduce pollution by promoting public transport and infrastructure for non-motorized transport like cycling and walking.

AMRUT 1.0 (2015-2020)

  • Focused on 500 cities and towns with over one lakh population.
  • Total outlay of ₹50,000 crore for five years (FY 2015-16 to FY 2019-20).
  • Shared funding between central government, states, and cities.

AMRUT 2.0 (2021-2026)

  • Aims to make cities "water secure" by providing functional water tap connections to all households in all statutory towns.
  • Ambitious targets include 100% sewage management in the original 500 AMRUT cities.
  • Increased total outlay of ₹2,99,000 crore for five years.
  • Central government outlay of ₹76,760 crore with the remaining amount to be mobilized by states and cities.


3. Funds Utilized Under AMRUT Scheme


As of May 19, 2024, the AMRUT dashboard reports a total of ₹83,357 crore disbursed for various urban development projects. This investment has yielded significant progress

  • 58,66,237 tap connections have been provided to households.
  • 37,49,467 sewerage connections have been established.
  • 2,411 new parks have been developed, enhancing urban green spaces.
  • 62,78,571 LED lights have been installed, contributing to reduced energy consumption.
4. The Reality of Urban Infrastructure and Public Health in India

Despite the efforts and funding directed towards urban infrastructure development under the AMRUT scheme, significant challenges persist. It is estimated that about 200,000 people die each year due to inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene. In 2016, the disease burden per person due to unsafe water and sanitation in India was 40 times higher than in China, and this situation has seen little improvement.

Water and Sanitation Challenges

  • Poor treatment of vast amounts of wastewater increases the vulnerability and incidence of diseases.
  • The 150 reservoirs monitored by the central government, which supply water for drinking, irrigation, and hydroelectricity, were filled to just 40% of their capacity a few weeks ago.
  • Around 21 major cities are projected to run out of groundwater.
  • A NITI Aayog report states that 40% of India’s population will have no access to drinking water by 2030.
  • Nearly 31% of urban Indian households lack piped water, 67.3% are not connected to a piped sewerage system, and the average water supply per person in urban India is 69.25 litres per day, far below the required 135 litres.

Air Quality Concerns

Air quality in AMRUT cities and other large urban settlements continues to deteriorate. The National Clean Air Programme, launched by the central government in 2019, aimed to address these concerns, as AMRUT 2.0 focused solely on water and sewerage, leaving air quality issues from AMRUT 1.0 largely unaddressed.


5. Analyzing the Shortcomings of the AMRUT Scheme


The AMRUT scheme's fundamental flaws stem from its project-oriented approach rather than a holistic one. This scheme was designed for cities but lacked meaningful participation from city residents and elected officials. Instead, it was driven by bureaucrats, parastatals, and large technology-based companies, sidelining the organic involvement of city governments.

Governance and Participation Issues

  • The scheme's design was overly mechanical, with minimal organic participation from elected city governments. Bureaucrats and private interests primarily managed it.
  • The apex committee overseeing the scheme is headed by the Secretary of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MOHUA) and includes only non-elected members. At the state level, the high-powered committee is led by the chief secretary, with significant involvement from consultants and professionals, but no representation from elected officials. This structure violates the 74th constitutional amendment, which mandates the involvement of local representatives.

Misaligned Priorities and Poor Urban Planning

  • The involvement of large private players and builders has led to real estate development becoming a proxy for urban planning. This has resulted in the disappearance of water bodies and lakes, disrupted stormwater flows, and inadequate stormwater drainage systems.
  • Many sewage treatment plants are poorly designed, with the travel distance for faecal matter often exceeding the average commute of a worker. This inefficiency highlights the scheme's failure to account for the practicalities of urban infrastructure.
  • Effective water management must consider the climate, rainfall patterns, and existing infrastructure. The AMRUT scheme's failure to do so has exacerbated urban water management issues.

Need for a Comprehensive, People-Centric Approach

The AMRUT scheme requires a shift towards nature-based solutions and a comprehensive methodology that empowers local bodies and prioritises the needs of the people. This would involve greater participation from local communities and elected officials, ensuring that urban development is both sustainable and inclusive.


6. Way Forward
By adopting a more holistic and people-centric approach, AMRUT 2.0 and future urban development initiatives can create sustainable and healthy cities for all residents. The key lies in empowering local governance, fostering community engagement, and prioritizing long-term environmental and social well-being alongside infrastructure development.
For Prelims: AMRUT Scheme, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, 
For Mains: 
1. What are the environmental concerns associated with the current model of urban development in India, as highlighted by the shortcomings of AMRUT? Suggest measures for promoting sustainable urban infrastructure. (250 Words)
Source: The Hindu

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