With a vision to facilitate a bottom-up approach in urban planning, the 74th Constitutional Amendment in 1992 heralded the devolution of select rights and responsibilities to Urban Local Bodies (ULBs). As per the provisions of the act, attempts have been made by states to devolve financial and legislative powers to ULBs, to enable participatory decision making and enhance the efficiency of service delivery in select sectors such as water and sanitation. However, it has been observed that while the pace of devolution of powers has been slow and inadequate, the demands of service provision in these sectors continue to rise exponentially, thereby widening the deficit between demand and supply.
Several initiatives have been undertaken in the recent times by state and local governments alike to fill this gap. New models have been experimented in the last decade to improve the conditions of service delivery in these sectors. Some of these include – community led models in peri – urban areas such as the Swajal in Gujarat and Integrated Urban Water Management in Mulbagal; management contracts in Latur and Hubli – Dharwad; and long term concession agreements in Khandwa and Tirupur. However, these are still at an experimental stage. Further, these initiatives are often initiated and funded by state or central governments because ULBs often lack the capability to generate funds, plan and implement projects. This has led to an over-centralization of key public functions, which can be better delivered by the local government, thereby eroding the much needed efficiency in the delivery of public services.
Hence, an attempt at overcoming this deficiency requires greater devolution of financial, technical, human and other relevant resources in a manner consistent with the growing service delivery demands of different city types coupled with targeted efforts at building the requisite managerial, institutional and scientific capacities within ULBs.
The report by Arun Maira of the Union Planning Commission submitted to the Ministry of Urban Development reinforces the need for the above through the ‘creation of dedicated municipal cadre’ that is empowered to respond to the needs of a rapidly changing urban setting. This involves creating capacities among municipal representatives to design and implement projects; manage and generate finances through innovative instruments such as Municipal Debt, Public Private Partnerships (PPP) and Land Monetization, among others.
Given the above context, Athena Infonomics in collaboration with the British High Commission is organising a Workshop on ‘Strengthening Participatory Approaches in Urban Water Supply and Sewerage’ in the state of Andhra Pradesh on 8th February’2013. The workshop is a part of an ongoing research assignment carried out by Athena Infonomics to identify potential and strategies for implementing PPPs in these sectors and create guidelines for the ULBs to implement projects.