India can show the world how water management can be reinvented: CSE

  • National workshop held in Lucknow on ‘Sustainable and Inclusive Sanitation and Water for All’ highlights the steps Uttar Pradesh is taking in this field 
  • The state has a septage management policy; 59 towns and cities have set up treatment systems; and 36 plants are ready to begin operations   

Lucknow, March 21-22, 2023: “Even as the United Nations has launched a global campaign called ‘Be the Change’ to mark the World Water Day, India is already showcasing real action on the ground. It is already holding up a picture of how big change is possible. And this is evident in the way states like Uttar Pradesh are tackling the challenge of providing sustainable and inclusive sanitation and water for all,” said Sunita Narain, director general, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), while speaking at a national workshop organised here today to mark the World Water Day. 

The two-day workshop (March 21-22) was jointly organised by CSE, the department of urban development of the government of Uttar Pradesh and Swachh Bharat Mission (see workshop details here)

Speaking on the occasion, Arvind Kumar Sharma, minister of urban development, Uttar Pradesh, said: “The World Water Day and our deliberations and discussions on this day are important because we are living today in a time of great crisis in terms of water – a crisis of availability and access, of quality, of lack of sanitation and proper wastewater management, and upsetting of the water cycle due to climate change.” 

Uttar Pradesh chief secretary Durga Shankar Mishra, who addressed the workshop as well, said: “There is no ‘waste’ water – we only have ‘used’ water. Reduce, reuse and recycle should be the mantra of our life. We need to treat and reuse all water. Since 2014, India has remained committed and on course to a paradigm change in water and sanitation management – sanitation is a public movement in our country today.” 

The other key speakers at the event were Kaushal Kishore, Union minister of state, ministry of housing and urban affairs; Amrit Abhijat, principal secretary, department of urban development, government of Uttar Pradesh; Neha Sharma, state mission director-SBM, government of Uttar Pradesh; Ranjan Kumar, state mission director-AMRUT, government of Uttar Pradesh; Anil Dhingra, managing director, UP Jal Nigam (urban); Prasanta K Mohapatra, engineer-in-chief, Odisha Water Supply and Sewerage Board; and Depinder Singh Kapur, programme director-water, CSE. 

On this occasion, CSE released a series of reports based on ground studies on water and sanitation management in Uttar Pradesh (the reports can be downloaded free from 

The scenario in Uttar Pradesh

Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state of India; 95 per cent of its cities and towns are totally dependent on non-sewered sanitation systems. Only 31 towns (out of the 734 in the state) have partial sewerage systemsthat manage to treat just 40 per cent of the sewage generated. 

Says Depinder Kapur from CSE: “This is the reason why sustainable and inclusive scientific management of faecal sludge and septage is a priority for UP. The state’s poor are largely dependent on on-site sanitation systems-- therefore, providing an effective and affordable septage management system will generate significant social, environmental and public health outcomes.” 

According to Subrata Chakraborty, senior programme manager-water, CSE, “Uttar Pradesh has been moving ahead towards its goal of promoting inclusive sanitation for all. A septage management policy is in place, 59 towns and cities have set up treatment systems, and with the support provided by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the towns of Bijnor and Chunar now have fully functional faecal sludge and co-treatment systems in place.” 

There are 62 FSSM projects in UP(40 FSTPs and 22 co-treatment plants) -- out of this, 36 plants (27 FSTPs and nine co-treatment plants) are fully completed and ready to begin operations as of February 2023. 

The installed and under-construction capacity of UP’s septage treatment infrastructure stands at 2,075 kilolitre per day (KLD). The state has committed to establishing a network called “Super 59 Faecal Sludge Management Towns”, as the first step of a long term strategy to promote inclusive sanitation. 

From the workshop…

Speaking on the inaugural day of the workshop, Kaushal Kishore underlined the emphasis that the Central government has been giving to water and sanitation issues. Water harvesting, groundwater recharge, rejuvenation of water bodies, and the importance of the role played by sanitation workers were some of the key thrust areas that his ministry was focusing on, he said. 

In her address on the second day of the workshop, Narain pointed out that India’s “experience has been invaluable in teachingthe world how water management can be reinvented so that it is affordable and sustainable”. The ‘Indian way’, she said, puts water in the hands of communities and is focused on decentralised recharge and reuse. 

“Making water everybody’s business is the only way ahead.This is the opportunity – in this decade, we can put all we have learnt into practice and turn around the water-story of India,” said Narain. 

Narain pointed out that this was “even more important in today’s climate-risked world. We must scale up our work to invest in water systems and make them durable, not just to withstand another rain, but another deluge. We need to speed up our work, because climate change will make sure that we have more rain, but in fewer rainy days. This means doing much more to capture the rain, when and where it falls so that groundwater is recharged.” 

She added: “For a country like India, the issue of water is not about scarcity but about its careful use and about its equitable and distributed access. How we manage our water resources would determine if we remain poor or become rich; diseased or healthy. In other words, water is the determinant of our future. Water management strategies will need to be carefully designed so that they lead to distributed wealth generation.” 

For more details, interviews etc, please contact SUKANYA NAIR of The CSE Media Resource Centre,, 8816818864. 

Check out our comprehensive World Water Day coverage – articles, opinions, videos etc -- in Down To Earth: 

For the Hindi version of this press release, visit our website: