NEW DELHI: The new NDA government under Narendra Modi is set to embark on an ambitious multi-million dollar sanitation project that seeks to clean up around 1,000 Indian towns besides eliminating manual scavenging as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi whose 150th birth anniversary will be celebrated in 2019.
Tentatively named the ‘Mahatma Gandhi Clean India Programme’, the project will start from three cities in Uttar Pradesh, including Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi, according to people working on the project.
“Modi believes that Kachde se bhi kanchan ban sakta hai-…Waste is wealth for him and he will rope in professional companies with machinery and technology,” says one of his close confidantes, adding that the project will not be left to politicians or bureaucrats and that the involvement of private companies and professional management will ensure that it is different from mega projects like MNREGA launched by the previous UPA regime.
A special part of the project is about building 2 lakh toilets for women in 5,000 villages.
In his interactions with the team working on the project, Modi reportedly said, “our mothers and sisters have no access to closed toilets while we talk about ‘nari-sanman’ and ‘nari-gaurav’. We must make a commitment that nobody will defecate in the open.”
The role models for the project are cities like Amsterdam, Singapore, Freiburg (Germany) and Kobe (Japan). The project will be implemented on a P4 (people-public sector-private sector-partnership) model.
“Even in Surat, when the corporation was finding it difficult to bring down illegal structures, people formed groups and ensured removal of encroachments and revived public toilets. Modi is quite aware about that and wishes to emulate the model.
That is why he has been urging people to be responsible for their surroundings,” an official working closely with Modi told ET. The officials and professionals that ET spoke to requested not to be named since the project was still on the drawing table and a Modi government was not yet in office.
The project envisages providing sanitation and sewerage facilities to over 36 million households in the country in the first phase. Modi had asked his team of over 100 qualified professionals to find out the financial implications of providing urban infrastructure like drinking water, gutter, solid waste management, storm water drainage, roads, transport and street light in 500 cities first, as phase one of the project.
Modi, said one official, has clearly told people that the first phase of the project encompassing 500 cities need to get over by by 2019.
“By 2022, the 75th year of independence, he wishes to make them model cities in terms of cleanliness, green cover and infrastructure,” the official said.
The focus will be on water supply, drainage system and roads as Modi believes every city should be a ‘nirman nagar’ with excellent drains and roads. Experts have suggested a unique model of people owned public toilets in the cities as part of the project, said some of the people associated with the project.
The funding could be divided between the government and private investors, say his team members. The project will have tenders given out to companies abroad for recycling solid wastes generated into organic fertilizers for horticulturists to grow fruits and vegetables.
“More than the dip in GDP, there are at least million infants dying because of unclean surroundings. Modi will definitely hike up the expenditure on the project, considering even in Gujarat 3,000 crores in the last few years, compared to Rs 200 crores of what it was a few years ago,” a confidante said.
*Vasudha Venugopal, ET Bureau