UK-India water MoU offers “great boost” to trade

British Water chief executive Lila Thompson says a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) agreed between India and the UK’s leading water sector trade association will “bring a great boost” to trading relationships between the two countries. Thompson’s comments came at the India-UK Water Partnership Forum, a virtual event which took place on 22 September 2020.

The collaborative agreement has been signed by British Water, cGanga – a think-tank set up by the Indian Government’s Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation (Jal Shakti) – and the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG). With some US$200 billion of investment planned for the Indian water market, the MoU has been formalised to make it easier for the UK water industry to participate in the opportunities and for Indian companies to access global markets. 

“British Water and cGanga will plan to build a strong bridge not just for British industry seeking partnerships in India, but also to give a springboard to Indian industry seeking to go global,” Thompson told the Forum. “The collaboration model will be such that it will bring integrated water resource management techniques to the fore.”

Thompson said that India’s Environmental Technology Verification programme is a particularly useful channel for UK technology companies seeking to enter the Indian market. 

“A number of companies, including British Water members, have already been selected for work on the Clean Ganges Programme and are already in the process of rolling out their pilots and demonstration projects,” she said.

India’s Secretary of the Ministry of Jal Shakti, Upendra Prasad Singh, gave a keynote address to delegates. He explained the vast challenges faced by the country, which includes bringing drinking water and sanitation to every household. The ambitious 2024 deadline for the drinking water mission (Jal Jeewan) means making 1.1 million connections each day.

“We can’t afford to fail,” he said, outlining the two key components for the Ministry which are civil management of water and wastewater and ensuring greater flow in all river basins. “We have always welcomed any kind of cooperation, technical or otherwise, from other countries and we have tried to remove any entry barriers for companies from other countries so that we get best technologies and best of their practices.”

Secretary Singh also explained how by streamlining the design, construction and operation of new infrastructure, the Government aimed to raise the standard of project delivery and operation. “Right from the beginning, from design to construction, [the developer] is now the one who has to operate the plant for 15 years and payment is linked to satisfactory performance,” he said. 

Dr Vinod Tare, founding head of cGanga, told the Forum that the Indian Government has to deliver and needs to bring the very best know-how, technology and best practice from around the world and to “develop a unique blend of experience from developed and developing world approaches.”

Finance and investment were also major themes of the Forum, which saw participation from the City of London Corporation (CLC) and the London Stock Exchange. In her inaugural address, the Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Gaitri Issar Kumar, said, “The UK is at cutting edge of innovation in the water sector and is also the leading green finance hub of the world – there are today tremendous business and investment opportunities in the Indian water sector.” 

Ben Cackett, CLC’s head of global exports and investments said the Indian market was a key priority for the City. “The UK and India are at the forefront of thinking how to unlock green growth and our nations recognise the transition to a sustainable future, particularly post Covid, is going to be the biggest challenge, but obviously the biggest investment opportunity too, for our generation.” He said.

“We know that India has a huge need for green infrastructure and in the water sector alone we need to see US$200 billion worth of capital investment in India over the next 10 years or so. So as India embarks on its rapid infrastructure-led growth, we in the City are there to support the best access to capital markets globally to help this journey.”

The MOU was facilitated by British Water’s International Forum and international manager, Karolina Perét alongside British Water international business mentor for India and Asia, Jas Sohl.

Speaking after the event, Perét said, “After many months of planning and collaboration, I am thrilled this important MoU has been signed. British Water has a long history of organising business development visits to India, and this partnership will open many more doors for our members, who have a depth of experience and expertise. We look forward to working with cGanga to help deliver critical transformation of water and wastewater services in India.”

Next steps for the collaboration include further briefings on cGanga and other project opportunities and the exploration of UK participation at the India Water Impact Summit. The UK will play to host the Indian Government and industry with planned site visits to see water technology and engineering innovations in action. 

The partners will also work together to shine a spotlight on water at COP26 – the 26th United Nations climate change conference – which takes place in Glasgow, Scotland from 1 November 2020.