From the Clean Ganga mission to water bonds raised on the London Stock Exchange, the UK and India recently explored various areas open to them in the field of greater collaboration for water security.
Official UK government estimates indicate that India's investment requirements in the field of water security are likely to be around £7.5 billion by 2031. A key aspect of this includes the Indian government's ambitious plans for access to clean water, including the flagship Clean Ganga, or Namami Gange Programme, with the twin objectives of tackling pollution and ensuring the conservation and rejuvenation of the river Ganges.
The UK-India Water Partnership Forum, held recently on a virtual platform, brought together leading figures from across business and industry and water conservation from both countries in order to explore areas where the UK and India could collaborate further, not only to address the conservation challenges but also to invest in future water security for both nations.
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Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Gaitri Issar Kumar, used her address at the forum last week to highlight that 11 of the 23 companies selected so far under the Namami Gange Environment Technology Verification (ETV) process were from the UK, making the country a key partner in the field.
The use of innovative finance models and artificial intelligence (AI) are among some of the areas of expertise that the UK could step in to widen the water partnership.
Ben Crackett, Head of Global Export and Investment at the City of London Corporation, said: “The UK can help India develop many cutting edge instruments such as water bonds, credit enhancement instruments and specialist insurance, which will all be very useful for the hundreds of billions needed in the construction of India's water sector.”
On the Indian side, Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, Director General of the National Mission for Clean Ganga, pointed to ongoing dialogue around the so-called “Ganga bonds” for UK investments in the crucial river project in India.
He said: “India's partnership with the UK will bring significant benefits including knowhow and capital. There have been a number of dialogues between the two nations to develop financial vehicles such as Ganga bonds, specialist technology demonstration funds and most importantly project finance pools.”
As host of the 2020 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), scheduled for Glasgow in November 2021, the UK is keen to also highlight opportunities and developments within the water sector as part of a wider conservation debate.
India will step in with an exhibition around water conservation and the Namami Gange Programme, which will travel across the UK next year and conclude at the COP26 meeting in Glasgow in November.
Besides the Namami Gange project, the Jal Jeewan Mission - designed to provide safe and adequate drinking water through individual household tap connections by 2024 to all households in rural India - and the Swachh Bharat or Clean India Mission is also expected to take centrestage at the climate conference.
Therefore, the recent collaboration agreement signed by Dr Vinod Tare, Founder of the Centre for Ganga River Basin Management and Studies (cGanga) - a think tank under the Indian Ministry of Jal Shakti (Water Management) - and Lila Thompson, Chief Executive of UK's leading industry body British Water, marks an important milestone in widening the bilateral engagement in this sphere.
The cGanga proposed Ganga Bonds - 30 to 50-year bonds critical to financing the water infrastructure needs of the future - and a toolkit for river basin organisations to access finance in partnership with strong development finance institutions are just some of the areas that could benefit from this renewed push.
As Alex Imseeh, Senior Associate for Business Development at the London Stock Exchange, pointed out, the capital markets of the City stand ready to back up with liquidity for infrastructure projects in India, including in the field of water security.