India – National Workshop on Urban Water and Sanitation

WaterAid India in collaboration with UN-HABITAT and Government of Madhya Pradesh is organizing a three-day National Workshop on Urban Water and Sanitation in Bhopal from March 5 to 7 2009.

For details about the workshop, interviews with experts and daily updates on the workshop please contact: Binu Nair 09717397828, or email at

• Around 40 million people reside in slums, without adequate water and sanitation
• India will have 41% of its population living in cities and towns by 2030 i.e. over 575 million people from present 286 million.
• But they can’t have water and sanitation till we recognize their existence
• WaterAid India, UN-HABITAT and Governmnet of Madhya Pradesh are organizing a three-day National Workshop from March 5 to 7 to discuss issues related to urban water and sanitation
• Over 100 experts will debate and deliberate on how make water and sanitation possible for urban poor

Bhopal, March 5 2009: After the euphoria over Slumdog Millionaire sweeping the Oscars, it is time to get real with situation in slums in India.

India is urbanizing very fast and along with this, the slum population is also increasing. India’s urban population is increasing at a faster rate than its total population. With over 575 million people, India will have 41% of its population living in cities and towns by 2030 AD from the present level of 286 million and 28%. However, most of them are not having basic facilities like drinking water and sanitation.

Among the urban poor, the slum dwellers are the poorest. The very definition of slums points at acute drinking water and sanitation crisis for the slum dwellers. Slum in India is defined as a cluster inside urban areas without having water and sanitation access.

Slum population has doubled

Slum population is constantly increasing: it has doubled in the past two decades. The current population living in slums in the country is more than the population of Britain. India’s slum-dwelling population rose from 27.9 million in 1981 to over 40 million in 2001. As per the 2001 census of India, 640 towns spread over 26 states and union territories have reported existence of slums. This means one out of every four persons reside in slums in our cities and towns. The NSSO survey in 2002 has identified 51688 slums in urban areas of which 50.6% of urban slums have been declared as “notified slums”.

This growing slum population and the lack of basic facilities will badly impact on India’s overall target achievement in water and sanitation sector.

Searching for solutions

Over 100 experts from water and sanitation sector are coming together in Bhopal to discuss existing issues and challenges in providing water and sanitation services in urban areas. The deliberation and recommendation of the workshop will influence the ongoing and upcoming urban reform initiatives that will lead to better provision of services for the urban poor. The National Sample Survey Organisation survey conducted in 2002 found that in 84 % of the notified slums the main water source is through tap water supply. But these numbers mask differences across the states of India. In Bihar none of the slums get water via the tap. In Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh less than 35 % of slums get tap water. Nearly 44 % of non-notified slums do not have a drainage system of any type whereas only 15 percent of notified slums do not have a drainage system. A similar picture emerges in the case of latrines. Nearly half of the non-notified slums do not have a latrine of any type. In contrast only 17 % of notified slums do not have a latrine. However, the past few years have seen significant improvements in water and sanitation situation in slums. But, that is not a source of solace as there is still a vast number of slum dweller to be provided these basic facilities.

A puzzle

What puzzles everybody is despite sharp reductions in poverty and rising incomes, slum population is increasing. And it is a truism that slum dwellers are poor. GoI has been initiating targeted schemes and programmes to improve slum conditions since 1960s. But its policy focus has undergone a change over a period of time. In the 1970s and 1980s, government had a policy of ‘no slums cities’. This warranted forceful resettlement and rehabilitation of slum dwellers. This anyway didn’t help in making cities slums free. Then government started slum up gradation programmes under which infrastructure development was encouraged.

Since 1972 government of India initiated a programme called Environmental Improvement of Urban Slums under which priority to drinking water and sanitation was given. Again in 1996 government initiated the National Slum Development Programme with substantial fund allocation. It had a specified focus on making drinking water provisions and community toilets. After spending close to Rs. 3100 crore in nine years, it was discontinued. It was estimated that 46 million slum dwellers benefited from it.

In 2005 government started the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). It is an initiative aiming at encouraging reforms and fast track planned development of identified cities. It has a financial commitment of Rs. 1,50,000 crore during 2006-12. The larger objective of the mission is to integrated development of infrastructure services; accelerating the flow of investment into urban infrastructure services; planned development of cities including the peri-urban areas and universalisation of urban services to ensure their availability to the urban poor.

Experience in Madhya Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh is the sixth most urbanized states in the country having four almost million plus cities (Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur and Gwalior) and a large number of small and medium towns (337). Interestingly, 26 towns account for 55.8% of the urban population, while the rest 44.2% live in other 311 towns. In MP the landscapes of slums across the state are literarily changing. Toilets are sprouting in slums of the state’s big cities like Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur and Gwalior. New sewer lines and drainage systems are being laid out to have safe disposal of wastes. Residents who hardly talked about sanitation few years ago are now leading campaigns to build toilets and safe disposal of wastes.

The change is a cumulative outcome of a pilot initiative called the Slum Environment Sanitation Initiative (SESI) which is a joint Project of WaterAid India, UN Habitat and the municipal corporations of Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur and Gwalior, started in November 2005 as a pilot to develop and demonstrate community led approaches for slum improvement focusing on water, sanitation and hygiene.


2 responses to “India – National Workshop on Urban Water and Sanitation

  1. We are agroup of technical people representing IIT, Delhi, Lyon University, France and a non-profit organisation, Chandrabimb Foundation are working on a project for affordable clean drinking water for communities using RO technology. As a demonstartion project, we are soon going to set up a unit in a viilage. Would like to be in touch

  2. We are a Theatre Group in Chandigarh, who are now a days staging a play in Hindi “DASSH-CHAKKRA” to raise the voice on the problems of contaminated drinking water. We wants to do this play in each Nukkar and Village as a campaign. Can we join hands in the interest of people’s hygiene life.


    Parveen Jaggi
    Gen. Secy.
    SPKK, Chandigarh, India

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