New Delhi, India (Urban Transport News): In a significant stride towards bolstering India's urban infrastructure, the central government formalized a USD 400 million policy-based loan agreement with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) headquartered in Manila. This collaboration aims to fortify the urban reform agenda, fostering the creation of high-quality urban infrastructure, enhancing service delivery, and championing efficient governance systems. The loan agreement, constituting Sub-programme 2 of the Sustainable Urban Development and Service Delivery Programme, was inked by Juhi Mukherjee, Joint Secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs, and Takeo Konishi, Country Director of ADB's India Resident Mission.
Sub-programme 1, sanctioned in 2021 with a financing infusion of USD 350 million, laid the foundation by establishing national-level policies and guidelines to uplift urban services. Building on this foundation, Sub-programme 2 is geared towards supporting investment planning and reform actions at the state and urban local body (ULB) levels, as highlighted by the finance ministry. Juhi Mukherjee, expressing the government's stance, stated that the programme aligns with the urban sector strategy, emphasizing reforms to transform cities into livable hubs and engines of economic growth, fostering inclusive, resilient, and sustainable infrastructure.
Takeo Konishi shed light on Sub-programme 2, indicating its support for the reforms initiated by states and ULBs in operationalizing the national flagship program, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (Amrut) 2.0. This program is strategically aimed at achieving universal access to water supply and sanitation. Moreover, it underscores initiatives for urban water security, encompassing measures to reduce water losses, recycle treated sewage for non-domestic use, rejuvenate water bodies, and maintain sustainable groundwater levels.
The comprehensive program also envisions integrated urban planning reforms designed to curb urban sprawls and foster systemic, planned urbanization. This involves a holistic approach, encompassing legal, regulatory, and institutional reforms, coupled with capacity-building initiatives for ULBs and community awareness. Notably, urban local bodies will play a pivotal role in modernizing building bylaws, implementing land pooling strategies, promoting urban agglomeration, and developing comprehensive urban mobility planning through transit-oriented development.
The multifaceted approach is set to position cities as well-planned centers of economic growth, with a strong emphasis on climate and disaster resilience, nature-based solutions, improved urban environments, and enhanced financial sustainability. Cities will be incentivized to enhance their creditworthiness through various reforms, including revenue augmentation through property taxes and user charges. The overall objective is to empower cities to explore innovative financing avenues, such as commercial borrowings, municipal bonds, sub-sovereign debts, and public-private partnerships, bridging critical gaps in urban infrastructure investments.
This strategic partnership between India and the Asian Development Bank marks a crucial step towards transforming the urban landscape, ensuring sustainable, resilient, and inclusive development.