Putting Laws into Practice: The Case of Rainwater Harvesting

What happens when a law is passed in a vacuum?  The answer: it doesn’t get implemented.

What happens when the government throws rules and regulations at people, without giving them the tools to apply them, or without developing enforcement mechanisms to measure adherence?  The answer: nobody complies, and nobody cares.

This is exactly what is happening with the rainwater harvesting law.  Wait, what rainwater harvesting law?  See, I didn’t know about it either –  apparently, in 2001 the Central Ground Water Authority made it “mandatory for every household to have a rooftop rainwater harvesting system wherever the groundwater level is below 8 metres.”  In addition, the new bylaws mandate water harvesting in all new buildings built on plots of 100 square meters and above, and require that buildings with a daily discharge of 10,000 liters or more incorporate wastewater recycling systems.  What a great concept, right?

But, again, here’s the golden question – how does it work in practice?  Here are some thoughts from Ajay Kharbanda, a Delhi resident who is a practicing rainwater harvester:

Everyone thinks, why spend money on this when he is anyway getting his daily supply of water. But people do not realize that nothing is permanent.

Neither do buildings have the incentive to abide by these regulations, as there seem to be no stipulations regarding enforcement or penalization.  How, then, is this system supposed to work?  What type of program must the government implement, and with what types of incentives / penalties in order to make the law effective in practice?

An example is Indore, which gives a 6% rebate in property tax to all those who adopt rainwater harvesting.  What do you think?  What other methods are necessary for legal theory to turn into everyday practice?

Source: Times of India

Entrepreneurship Encouraged by the Government

iGovernment reports that the Indian government is encouraging the growth of entrepreneurship in several different ways, from public private partnerships to employment generation programs. In its Eleventh Plan, macro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) clusters will be promoted.

The Rajiv Gandhi Udyami Mitra Yojana will assist potential 1.5 lakh first-generation entrepreneurs in completion of various formalities and tasks necessary for setting up of their enterprises and to facilitate them in completing the required formalities during the course of Eleventh Five Year Plan.

To tap into young minds, the government will provide financial assistance to universities to run entrepreneurial clubs. Additionally, initiatives to energize traditional industries are included in the Plan.

A scheme for enhancing productivity and competitiveness of Khadi industries and artisans has been proposed, apart from a scheme for rejuvenation, modernisation and technological upgradation of coir industry.

India is quite famous for its five-year plans, and the trend from focusing on just economic and infrastructure development to also including social and human development is promising.

Eco-Wise: Braving New Frontiers in Waste Management

Waste management is a significant challenge for India, specifically in urban areas, where the accumulation of trash leads to the prevalence of preventable diseases in poor, underprivileged populations. In order to address this issue, change is required on both a systemic and individual level, as the cause of the problem is rooted not only in lack of sanitation infrastructure / policies, but culturally accepted behavioral norms as well. In other words, not only do individuals not believe in maintaining the integrity of public spaces, but there is no formalized system in place to ensure that waste is collected and disposed of properly. Unfortunately, if there is no sense of personal responsibility, as well as no concept of proper trash disposal (neither the infrastructure to support this notion), how can we even begin to take the next necessary steps towards recycling and reuse?

As part of its “Climate Connections” series, NPR recently featured India’s first waste-recycling company, EcoWise Waste Management, the “leading provider of waste and environmental services” outside the Delhi area. To date, the company has achieved the following:

Headquartered in Noida, the company’s network of operations includes 15 collection operations, 2 transfer stations, 2 waste-to-compost plants and 5 recycling plants. These assets enable Eco Wise to offer a full range of environmental services to nearly 1.5 lac residential, industrial, municipal and commercial customers. We collect and treat 40 tons of waste on a daily basis, which would otherwise be found lying on the roadside or make its way to the landfill site.

  1. Our activities diverted more than 2,400,000 tons of waste from ending up in land fill sites just last year
  2. With 80 manual rikshaws and 8 trucks running on bio-diesel we operate the cities largest fleet of clean vehicles
  3. Eco Wise is the only company in India that has its own waste segregation and treatment site.
  4. Our operations have permanently shut down more than 15 road side dumps in Noida.

The question, then, is this – if private actors are able to do (efficiently, cost-effectively, scalably) what government entities are supposed to do, how can the government capitalize on the insight of these entities? We’ve talked about PPPs on this site before, but what potential is there for these types of partnerships in the sanitation sector? (More after the break) Continue reading

TC-I Tidbits

  • Health: According to a report, India is not on track toward the Millennium Development Goal of reducing child and maternal mortality. The number of children who die before their fifth birthday stands at 76 per 1,000 live births, while the goal is 38.
  • Government Schemes: The Gujarat state government’s Jyoti Gram Yojana, a program to ensure 100 per cent village electrification, increased employment and reduced migration from rural areas by 33 per cent. The government is considering scaling up further and replicating in other areas.
  • Energy: India is one of the three countries in a renewable energy project by Osram, a lighting company, where solar-powered lanterns and battery boxes will replace kerosene lamps in villages.
  • Agriculture: In some positive news following the concern of rising food prices, the government estimates that India’s total food grains will be a record 227.32 million tons, which is 10 million more tons than last year.

Evening Edition

For your reading pleasure:

  • Government and Inflation: After meeting with the Cabinet Committee on Prices, PM Manmohan Singh announced a multitude of measures to rein in inflation. In related news, rising prices could deal a significant blow to the US-India nuclear agreement due to the potential for political fallout.
  • Microfinance: VC Circle reports that Lok Capital, a micro-finance focused VC fund will be in investing $1.25 million in Delhi based MFI Satin Creditcare Network Ltd. Staying with Microfinance, Govt. of India is introducing a scheme called ‘Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana’ (RSBY), which will provide cashless health insurance to families living below poverty line, using smart-card technology (via igovernment.in)
  • Higher Education: Economic Times reports that 29 Indian students from colleges across the country have been chosen to participate in the Goldman Sachs Global Leaders Program (GSGLP). They get a $3000 grant and a chance to participate in the Goldman Sachs Summer Leadership Institute.

Remote Blogging: Skoll World Forum 2008 — What is the role of government?

In the Innovation and Change in Government Culture workshop, one of the major themes was which problems or issues should government address and which should they ignore or stay away from. This is a very important concern, especially since much of the impetus for social entrepreneurship comes from those areas where the public sector is downright dysfunctional.(Source SocialEdge)

Professor David Gergen [Director, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard] opened this session by noting that social entrepreneurs and governments are not always natural allies. The role of social entrepreneurs is often to fill voids in the governmental provision of social services. Thus governments may perceive social entrepreneurs as competitors, or usurpers of the government’s rightful role, while social entrepreneurs are often prideful of their independence, perceiving the government as a failure. Yet as entrepreneurship becomes a more powerful social force, the two institutions must find new and creative ways to engage with each other. There is the potential for both great conflict and great synergy.

Continue reading

Super Early Morning Edition


The Manmohan Singh government, which is battling inflation, has another worry at hand: a shrinking job market. While the government at the Centre has not been able to rein in prices, it has admitted that rupee appreciation against dollar has resulted in the loss of about 20 lakh jobs.

In an effort to provide electricity to every rural household in the country the ministry of new and renewable energy has decided to provide a generation-based incentive of Rs 12 per kilo watt hour for electricity generated from solar photovoltaic and a maximum of Rs 10 per kWh for electricity generated through solar thermal power plants and fed to the grid from a grid interactive solar power plant of 1 mega watt and above.

Progress in detecting new cases of tuberculosis is slowing, threatening to increase the risks of transmitting drug-resistant strains, the World Health Organization said Monday.  India, China, Indonesia, South Africa and Nigeria rank as the top five countries in terms of absolute numbers of tuberculosis cases.  The W.H.O. said there was a shortfall of $2.5 billion of the $4.8 billion needed this year for overall tuberculosis control in low- and middle-income countries.

A professor, a team of students led by Beena Sukumaran, and an environmental engineering have made new pedal-powered grain crusher that promises to become an effective and cheap food processor unit for the economically disadvantaged communities of the world.  It could help generate income for individuals traveling from village to village.