India, World Bank sign $1.5 billion loan agreement for Universal Sanitation Initiative

India, World Bank sign $1.5 billion loan agreement for Universal Sanitation Initiative

NEW DELHI: The Government of India and the World Bank today signed a US$1.5 billion loan agreement for the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) Support Operation Project to support the Indian government in its efforts to ensure that all citizens in the rural areas have access to improved sanitation with a focus on changing behaviour and eliminating the practice of open defecation by 2019.

The loan agreement for the project was signed by Raj Kumar, Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance on behalf of the Government of India and Onno Ruhl, World Bank Country Director, India, according to a press release issued by the World Bank.

“The Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission is the country’s largest-ever drive to improve sanitation. The SBM aims to end open defecation and improve the management of liquid and solid wastes. The project will promote behaviour change among rural communities and help accelerate results in India’s states by giving performance-based incentives,” said Raj Kumar, Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India.

Specifically, this project will support the rural component, known as SBM – Gramin (SBM-G), over a five-year period using a new performance-based program which links funds directly to results, ensuring that benefits are delivered to the people in need – more than 60 percent of India’s population that resides in rural areas.

The SBM-G program focuses on ensuring usage of toilets along with their construction. States and their implementing agencies will be given incentives for meeting performance standards. Performance will be measured against the states’ ability to reduce open defecation, sustaining their open defecation free (ODF) status and improving solid and liquid waste management in rural areas. The financing mechanism promotes the leadership of the states, which will have flexibility in innovating and adopting their own delivery models.

“One in every ten deaths in India is linked to poor sanitation. And studies show that low-income households bear the maximum brunt of poor sanitation. This project, aimed at strengthening the implementation of the Swachh Bharat Initiative of the government, will result in significant health benefits for the poor and vulnerable, especially those living in rural areas,” said Onno Ruhl, World Bank Country Director for India.

“Incentivizing good performance by states and the focus on behavioural changes are two important components of this project,” he added.

The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation will oversee and coordinate the project and support the participating states. Funds will also be used to develop the capacity of MDWS in program management, advocacy, monitoring and evaluation.

The World Bank will also provide a parallel US$25 million technical assistance to build the capacity of select state governments in implementing community-led behavioural change programs targeting social norms to help ensure widespread usage of toilets by rural households.

“This program, built on lessons learnt from global and national sanitation projects, represents a fundamental change in approach and recognizes the importance of coupling investments in the construction of toilets to its usage. For it to succeed, large-scale social mobilization for behavior change is critical at the community level,” said Soma Ghosh Moulik, Lead Water and Sanitation Specialist and the project’s Task Team Leader. “Third party assessments and regular monitoring will provide reliable information on the project’s progress,” she added.

Progress towards the key indicators – which will form the basis for releasing incentive grants to states – will be measured through independent verification assessments. National Annual Rural Sanitation Surveys will be carried out annually by a third party.

The project will also finance specific activities to strengthen the current monitoring and evaluation system to capture timely, relevant, and reliable information on the program’s progress. Support will be provided for systematic knowledge sharing and innovation, as well as capacity building and partnership.

The loan, from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), has a maturity of 18 years including a grace period of 5 years.

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