Aligning India's water resource policies with the SDGs
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries. The SDGs recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change. The SDGs build on the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – which aimed at halving extreme poverty rates as well as improve other human development indicators. The SDGs have a more ambitious agenda, built on the three pillars of economic, social and environmental development. The SDGs are universal, interdependent, and mutually reinforcing (and sometimes conflicting). The SDGs raise the bar by aiming not only to expand the access to respective services but also to close the gaps in service quality, with the intention of long-term sustainability.
It is generally acknowledged that the overall success in achieving the SDGs, rests to a large extent on India achieving its goals, and it goes without saying that achieving SDG 6 (Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all) is a crucial part of achieving all the SDGs. The Indian water scenario is complex and varied, and is undergoing rapid change in response to various drivers including food security, population growth and urbanisation. Climate change impacts are likely to add an additional layer of complexity and variability. Improving resource management on the one hand and deftly handling trade-off issues with other sectors (and even within the water sector) for optimally achieving all of the SDGs requires huge re-engineering of the governance, planning and implementational framework at National, State, and local (community) levels.
The linkages between the various SDGs are already a subject of much analysis, and need, in principle, for trade-off between strategies to achieve the various SDGs are accepted. However, the trade-offs actually occur at the policy level rather than at the SDG level, and is highly dependent on the specific policy context. This Discussion Paper looks at the current alignment of the Government of India’s policies and programmes for the water sector as they have evolved over the last many decades, and analyses the policies in relation to SDG 6 and the other SDGs to understand policy level changes needed to manage the trade-offs more optimally. One of the key messages of the Paper is that the same exercise needs to be done for various sectors and at the sub-national and lower levels for effective management of the SDG implementation process.