Swachh Bharat

India’s cleanest cities: Citizen engagement drives the rankings

The government evaluated performance on citizen engagement through the Swachhata-MoUD mobile app.

If you are happy with your city’s cleanliness and want it to be recognised, it might be a good idea to begin by downloading a government mobile phone application.

Citizen engagement appears to be driving national cleanliness rankings more than municipal claims and independent verifications, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of 20 cities in the 2017 Swachh Survekshan (Cleanliness Survey) report released by the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD).

The government evaluated cities’ performance on citizen engagement through a mobile application Swachhata-MoUD – which can be downloaded from Google Play Store – for a maximum of 150 points of the total 600 points for “citizen engagement”.

Of the 20 cities that IndiaSpend studied, 13 scored 85 points and above in the “Swachhata App” sub-category. Nine of these saw an average rise of 10 ranks over 2016. The seven cities that scored 80 points and below fell 36 ranks behind, on average, the analysis showed.

“The Survekshan methodology needs a serious relook as it is rewarding cities with environmentally unsustainable practices and discouraging cities working towards behaviour change and local solutions,” Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general, Centre for Science and Environment, a New Delhi-based environmental think tank, was quoted as saying in this Financial Express report.

“The methodology used to rank cities appears flawed” due to reasons such as leaning heavily on declarations made by municipalities, mistaking relative outcomes for absolute values and the vulnerability of citizen feedback to manipulation, the Hindustan Times reported on May 7.

Citizen engagement

The Swachh Survekshan report is an annual exercise by the Ministry of Urban Development to measure the progress of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission) launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in November 2014.

Unlike in 2016 when the report assessed 73 cities, 434 cities have been assessed this year and ranked on the basis of cleanliness and sanitation.

The Ministry of Urban Development modified the scoring pattern for ranking cities on cleanliness this year: It transferred 100 points previously allotted to “municipal documentation” to “citizen engagement”.

Municipal documentation refers to urban local bodies’ assessment of their own infrastructure efforts on collection, transportation and disposal of solid waste, and strategies for open defecation-free towns.

Citizen engagement consists of two parts: online, telephonic and social media surveys, and the use of the Swachhata App for citizens to connect with their urban local bodies. The app, as we said, carries 150 points, which accounts for 25% of citizen feedback points (600 points) and holds 7.5% weightage in the overall scoring of 2,000 points.

The app, which seeks to connect urban local bodies with citizens to identify and solve local waste management issues, has been downloaded up to 1 million times, according to data from Google Play Store. For perspective, India has 367.4 million internet subscribers while its urban population is over 377 million.

Citizens can post a complaint of garbage pile-ups and mismanagement by taking a picture and posting it through the app. The app captures the location and forwards it to the concerned city-corporation after which it is assigned to the concerned ward-level sanitary inspector. Citizens can also check the status of their complaint.

Weightage for the third parameter “direct observation” – on-ground inspection of actual work carried out to improve sanitation and hygiene – remained unchanged at 500 points.

Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have emerged as the top two states with the most number of clean cities, 12 and 11, respectively, in India’s top 50 clean cities, IndiaSpend reported on May 5.

Cleanest cities

While higher scores on documentation and observation did not necessarily translate to better rankings, Swachhata App and citizen engagement scores seem to be directly correlated to city rankings, an IndiaSpend analysis showed.

We analysed the scores and ranks of 20 cities – the top 10 cities of 2016 and 2017, and those declared as “fastest moving” with a population of over a million.

Tirupati, which did not feature in the 2016 Swachh Survekshan report, was ranked ninth in 2017 after scoring the highest (135/150) in the Swachhata App sub-category.

Indore and Bhopal, which hold the first and second ranks, respectively, jumped 24 and 19 spots ahead from 2016, scoring 120 and 130 points on the app.

Chandigarh, Rajkot, Pimpri-Chinchwad and Greater Mumbai, which were in the top 10 in 2016, fell nine, 11, 19 and 63 spots behind to 11th, 18th, 29th and 72nd, respectively, in 2017 after scoring 30-80 points in the Swachhata App sub-category.

Gangtok, which was ranked eighth in 2016, scored zero on the app and fell to the 50th rank in 2017.

Higher scoring in the overall segment of “citizen engagement”, including citizen feedback through online surveys, phone surveys and social media, helped the rise of 2017’s top four cities – Indore, Bhopal, Vishakhapatnam and Surat.

Indore, while failing to achieve top scores in other parameters, scored over others in the “citizen engagement” parameter to bag the title of the “cleanest city in India”.

Bhopal ranked second overall, and holds the second-highest score in the Swachhata App (130). The two Madhya Pradesh cities held the 25th and 21st ranks in 2016.

Visakhapatnam showed the highest number of citizens engaging with the urban local bodies – 190,000 – among the cities considered for the study, and rose from fifth to third rank in 2017. The port city scored 90 on the Swachhata App.

Source: Swachh Survekshan reports 2016, 2017Note: *
Source: Swachh Survekshan reports 2016, 2017Note: *"Fastest Moving City” with 1 million+ population in 2017 Swachcha Survekshan report. Tirupati did not feature in the 2016 Swachh Survekshan report.

Cleanliness efforts

Of the cities that figured in the list of top 10 cities of 2016, only half remained in the top 10 in 2017: Chandigarh, Rajkot, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Gangtok and Greater Mumbai dropped below the 10th rank.

Better scoring on “municipal documentation” did not lead to improved rankings: Chandigarh scored the highest (883 on 900) among all cities in the study, but dropped nine ranks to 11th in the 2017 report (from second place in 2016).

Greater Mumbai, which dropped from 10th to 29th this year, scored 91.5% in this category, above Tirupati (89.9%), now ranked ninth. The overall scores of both Chandigarh and Greater Mumbai had declined by 0.8% and 0.07%.

High scores on “direct observation” did not yield better results. Mysuru, ranked first in 2016, fell to fifth rank in 2017 despite scoring the third highest (460 on 500) on this parameter. It scored 0.3% lower than the previous year.

Referring to Mysuru, which had also topped the rankings in 2014, Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu asserted that it did not imply cleanliness has declined in the city. “The spirit of competition is sought to be promoted through such surveys to help cities know where they stand in absolute terms and in relation to other cities as well.”

While the report does not offer explanations for the decline of the top 10 cities in 2016, Indore’s efforts in sanitation lauded in the report ranged from segregating waste to using plastic waste for road construction and repair. It also praised the city for drawing “graffiti on walls” to spread awareness and for “composing melodious jingles to encourage mass participation which plays in the garbage collection trucks as they traverse the city”.

The efforts of Bhopal, Visakhapatnam and Surat mentioned in the report range from converting waste to energy and practising on-site composting to erecting “Asli Tarakki (real progress) hoardings and awareness by Swachhatagrahis”.

At the fifth spot, Mysuru’s sanitation and hygiene endeavours, as described in the 2017 report, are nearly the same as its competitors ranked ahead. While the southern city, unlike the top four, does not track its garbage collection vehicles with global positioning system or engage informal waste-pickers (Bhopal does not do this either), the report praises its unique efforts to privatise garbage collection and transportation.

Source: Swachh Survekshan report 2017
Source: Swachh Survekshan report 2017

This article first appeared on Indiaspend, a data-driven and public-interest journalism non-profit.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

India’s urban water crisis calls for an integrated approach

We need solutions that address different aspects of the water eco-system and involve the collective participation of citizens and other stake-holders.

According to a UN report, around 1.2 billion people, or almost one fifth of the world’s population, live in areas where water is physically scarce and another 1.6 billion people, or nearly one quarter of the world’s population, face economic water shortage. They lack basic access to water. The criticality of the water situation across the world has in fact given rise to speculations over water wars becoming a distinct possibility in the future. In India the problem is compounded, given the rising population and urbanization. The Asian Development Bank has forecast that by 2030, India will have a water deficit of 50%.

Water challenges in urban India

For urban India, the situation is critical. In 2015, about 377 million Indians lived in urban areas and by 2030, the urban population is expected to rise to 590 million. Already, according to the National Sample Survey, only 47% of urban households have individual water connections and about 40% to 50% of water is reportedly lost in distribution systems due to various reasons. Further, as per the 2011 census, only 32.7% of urban Indian households are connected to a piped sewerage system.

Any comprehensive solution to address the water problem in urban India needs to take into account the specific challenges around water management and distribution:

Pressure on water sources: Rising demand on water means rising pressure on water sources, especially in cities. In a city like Mumbai for example, 3,750 Million Litres per Day (MLD) of water, including water for commercial and industrial use, is available, whereas 4,500 MLD is needed. The primary sources of water for cities like Mumbai are lakes created by dams across rivers near the city. Distributing the available water means providing 386,971 connections to the city’s roughly 13 million residents. When distribution becomes challenging, the workaround is to tap ground water. According to a study by the Centre for Science and Environment, 48% of urban water supply in India comes from ground water. Ground water exploitation for commercial and domestic use in most cities is leading to reduction in ground water level.

Distribution and water loss issues: Distribution challenges, such as water loss due to theft, pilferage, leaky pipes and faulty meter readings, result in unequal and unregulated distribution of water. In New Delhi, for example, water distribution loss was reported to be about 40% as per a study. In Mumbai, where most residents get only 2-5 hours of water supply per day, the non-revenue water loss is about 27% of the overall water supply. This strains the municipal body’s budget and impacts the improvement of distribution infrastructure. Factors such as difficult terrain and legal issues over buildings also affect water supply to many parts. According to a study, only 5% of piped water reaches slum areas in 42 Indian cities, including New Delhi. A 2011 study also found that 95% of households in slum areas in Mumbai’s Kaula Bunder district, in some seasons, use less than the WHO-recommended minimum of 50 litres per capita per day.

Water pollution and contamination: In India, almost 400,000 children die every year of diarrhea, primarily due to contaminated water. According to a 2017 report, 630 million people in the South East Asian countries, including India, use faeces-contaminated drinking water source, becoming susceptible to a range of diseases. Industrial waste is also a major cause for water contamination, particularly antibiotic ingredients released into rivers and soils by pharma companies. A Guardian report talks about pollution from drug companies, particularly those in India and China, resulting in the creation of drug-resistant superbugs. The report cites a study which indicates that by 2050, the total death toll worldwide due to infection by drug resistant bacteria could reach 10 million people.

A holistic approach to tackling water challenges

Addressing these challenges and improving access to clean water for all needs a combination of short-term and medium-term solutions. It also means involving the community and various stakeholders in implementing the solutions. This is the crux of the recommendations put forth by BASF.

The proposed solutions, based on a study of water issues in cities such as Mumbai, take into account different aspects of water management and distribution. Backed by a close understanding of the cost implications, they can make a difference in tackling urban water challenges. These solutions include:

Recycling and harvesting: Raw sewage water which is dumped into oceans damages the coastal eco-system. Instead, this could be used as a cheaper alternative to fresh water for industrial purposes. According to a 2011 World Bank report, 13% of total freshwater withdrawal in India is for industrial use. What’s more, the industrial demand for water is expected to grow at a rate of 4.2% per year till 2025. Much of this demand can be met by recycling and treating sewage water. In Mumbai for example, 3000 MLD of sewage water is released, almost 80% of fresh water availability. This can be purified and utilized for industrial needs. An example of recycled sewage water being used for industrial purpose is the 30 MLD waste water treatment facility at Gandhinagar and Anjar in Gujarat set up by Welspun India Ltd.

Another example is the proposal by Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) to recycle and reclaim sewage water treated at its existing facilities to meet the secondary purposes of both industries and residential complexes. In fact, residential complexes can similarly recycle and re-use their waste water for secondary purposes such as gardening.

Also, alternative rain water harvesting methods such as harvesting rain water from concrete surfaces using porous concrete can be used to supplement roof-top rain water harvesting, to help replenish ground water.

Community initiatives to supplement regular water supply: Initiatives such as community water storage and decentralized treatment facilities, including elevated water towers or reservoirs and water ATMs, based on a realistic understanding of the costs involved, can help support the city’s water distribution. Water towers or elevated reservoirs with onsite filters can also help optimize the space available for water distribution in congested cities. Water ATMs, which are automated water dispensing units that can be accessed with a smart card or an app, can ensure metered supply of safe water.

Testing and purification: With water contamination being a big challenge, the adoption of affordable and reliable multi-household water filter systems which are electricity free and easy to use can help, to some extent, access to safe drinking water at a domestic level. Also, the use of household water testing kits and the installation of water quality sensors on pipes, that send out alerts on water contamination, can create awareness of water contamination and drive suitable preventive steps.

Public awareness and use of technology: Public awareness campaigns, tax incentives for water conservation and the use of technology interfaces can also go a long way in addressing the water problem. For example, measures such as water credits can be introduced with tax benefits as incentives for efficient use and recycling of water. Similarly, government water apps, like that of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, can be used to spread tips on water saving, report leakage or send updates on water quality.

Collaborative approach: Finally, a collaborative approach like the adoption of a public-private partnership model for water projects can help. There are already examples of best practices here. For example, in Netherlands, water companies are incorporated as private companies, with the local and national governments being majority shareholders. Involving citizens through social business models for decentralized water supply, treatment or storage installations like water ATMs, as also the appointment of water guardians who can report on various aspects of water supply and usage can help in efficient water management. Grass-root level organizations could be partnered with for programmes to spread awareness on water safety and conservation.

For BASF, the proposed solutions are an extension of their close engagement with developing water management and water treatment solutions. The products developed specially for waste and drinking water treatment, such as Zetag® ULTRA and Magnafloc® LT, focus on ensuring sustainability, efficiency and cost effectiveness in the water and sludge treatment process.

BASF is also associated with operations of Reliance Industries’ desalination plant at Jamnagar in Gujarat.The thermal plant is designed to deliver up to 170,000 cubic meters of processed water per day. The use of inge® ultrafiltration technologies allows a continuous delivery of pre-filtered water at a consistent high-quality level, while the dosage of the Sokalan® PM 15 I protects the desalination plant from scaling. This combination of BASF’s expertise minimizes the energy footprint of the plant and secures water supply independently of the seasonal fluctuations. To know more about BASF’s range of sustainable solutions and innovative chemical products for the water industry, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of BASF and not by the Scroll editorial team.