The New Delhi forum identified the key sector needs and opportunities to advance community solutions to move toward scale. Participants included a small leadership group from the public and private sectors, civil society, and research. The primary purpose was to increase understanding of the challenges to advance community safe water solutions including the economics of sustainability, catalyzing investment and funding, and collaborations to achieve scale.
In addressing the Inaugural Session, Dr. Mihir Shah emphasized the importance of cross-sector partnerships, the way the Government has reached out to industry and sector specialists, and the need for a consortium approach. He offered specific recommendations on skill development in the sector, encouraging Safe Water Network to take on a role "to tie all the threads together, and consolidate the knowledge in the sector." He emphasized the importance of documenting what works well and learning from our failures. His remarks included emphasis on the importance of tackling waste water as well as the importance of women and using self-help groups, and loan based approaches to community challenges.
Shri Satyabrata Sahu, Mission Director and Joint Secretary at MDWS, discussed the stress on ground water, the need to treat waste water for reuse, and the 50% water loss that India experiences due to leakage and system inefficiencies. He emphasized the need for CSR investment in quality affected areas, particularly in those most backward which are rich in minerals, and that urgent solutions are needed for these areas.
Dr. Somnath Bandyopadhyay, Chief of Strategy, Safe Water Network, presented the findings from a market review of community safe water solutions in India, completed in collaboration with Accenture and Tata Strategic Management Group. He discussed a significant gap in safe water access in rural India with only 18% of rural households accessing treated water. His presentation described models for community safe water provision that are emerging in the sector to address the issue. A framework was provided for a more focused, coordinated response to advance the effort for the provision of safe water through sustainable community solutions.
The New Delhi forum was sponsored by Merck Foundation, (Merck & Co is known as MSD outside the U.S. and Canada), PepsiCo Foundation, and Navajbai Ratan Tata Trust. Each organization has played an important role in providing support and expertise to Safe Water Network to demonstrate the potential for sustainable safe water solutions at the community level.