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As India presides over the G20, the year 2023 will see more progress on the sustainable development agenda

The year 2023 is a momentous year for India. Our country presides over the deliberations of the G20 group. As we do this, we help advance the sustainable development agenda and help countries in the Global South access capital, technology and know-how to promote equitable progress.

As the 2030 deadline for meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) approaches, the world needs rapid progress towards achieving these goals. For this we need catalytic actions that enable impact at scale. India has prioritized social development on a large scale. Through the rapid rollout of social development initiatives such as the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) and the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), our country has shown the world how large-scale impact can be achieved in a short time.

These programs have dramatically improved the health and well-being of millions of Indians, increased their ease of living and promoted economic prosperity. And as their rollout continues at great speed, it improves the lives of millions more.

At the time of its implementation in 2014, the Swachh Bharat Mission sought to provide safe sanitation for all through the creation and use of toilets, making India open defecation free. India became free of open defecation on October 2, 2019 by building more than 100 million toilets in its villages. This marked the end of Phase I of SBM. The phase-2 of SBM was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in February 2020, just before India’s first Covid-19 wave.

Phase -2 emphasizes the sustainability of Phase 1 results and aims to provide adequate facilities for solid and liquid waste, including plastic waste management in rural India. Under the Swachh Bharat Mission – Grameen Phase 2, villages are progressing towards achieving Open Defecation Free Plus (ODF Plus) status. This includes the management of all types of waste, be it biodegradable waste, plastic waste, gray water or faecal sludge.

In August 2022, India reached another milestone with over one lakh villages being declared as ODF Plus. This is a great achievement because the Solid and Liquid Waste Management process involves somewhat complex technical aspects. This process is relatively new to rural India and is a second generation problem.

I am pleased to report that to date more than 182,000 villages have become ODF Plus, meaning they are making solid and liquid waste management arrangements.

The Jal Jeevan mission is also a national priority, aiming to provide drinking water to all households by 2024. We recently reached another milestone by connecting 11 crore rural households with secure and

through tap connections. We are working with the government and UT governments to address the problem of access to safe water by guiding and supporting them to reach the target of 100% tap water connectivity by 2024.

As of August 2019, only 3.24 crore households were connected to tap water. Since then, we have been working on tap water connections for 11 crore households and with the strong efforts of the state governments, we hope to connect the remaining 8.35 crore households to tap water by 2024 and achieve the target of Har Ghar Jal.

India has experienced large-scale social development despite the pandemic and the multifaceted challenges the global situation continues to present. Our country has risen to these challenges and lived up to them. A big part of why these initiatives have been successful is due to the active involvement of the community and the warm reception by the people we have tried to empower.

Social Welfare through Swachh Bharat Mission and Jal Jeevan Mission is a Jan Andolan in India. People quickly realized the benefits that implementing these initiatives brought them and were happy to support them and take the initiative in everything from infrastructure creation to maintenance. At the same time, these initiatives have taken a lot of careful planning, implementation and intergovernmental cooperation.

India is a really big country with diverse topographies, climate types, people and cultural values. It has taken initiative, perseverance, executive ability and decisive leadership to move these initiatives forward.

The G20 presidency gives us the opportunity to showcase our successes in sustainable development to the world, and more importantly, share our lessons in the true spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – the world is one family and one earth, one family, one future – the overarching theme of India’s G20 Presidency.

The implementation of the Swachh Bharat Mission and Jal Jeevan Mission will directly help India achieve at least four SDGs: those of ensuring good health and well-being, clean water and sanitation, reducing inequality and sustainable cities and communities. They also help India move forward in achieving other SDGs. That is what makes these two initiatives so important.

While the world looks to India for leadership and hope, population-level social development initiatives such as the Swachh Bharat Mission and Jal Jeevan Mission are examples of what the people want, trust in governance and careful implementation can really achieve.

Vini Mahajan is Secretary, Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Ministry of Jal Shakti. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the views of this publication

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