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Lila Thompson: Why partnerships will help India to deliver water

Lila Thompson
Monday, 5 October 2020

India “cannot fail” on its ambitious water and sanitation programmes and a new trading relationship with the UK can help, writes Lila Thompson.

Collaboration will help India achieve its vision

Transformational times lie ahead for India’s 1.3 billion population. The national government is pushing forward with vast programmes to deliver drinking water and sanitation to every household and to restore and rejuvenate the nation’s rivers.

I am proud to have taken a role in helping secure this unprecedented vision by helping to develop a new trading relationship between the UK and India. 

British Water has a long history of organising business development visits to India, several of which I have led myself. We have also welcomed senior delegations from India looking to partner with UK companies.

Led by British Water’s International Forum and our international manager Karolina Perét, this relationship has now been boosted with a Memorandum of Understanding with the Centre for Ganga River Basin Management & Studies (cGanga) - a think-tank set up by the Indian Government’s Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation (Jal Shakti) – along with the National Mission for Clean Ganga.

While British consultancies have generally done well in India, contractors and some technology companies have lagged behind. 

There are a number of historical reasons for this, including the commercial structure of the Indian market, a reliance of UK companies on markets closer to home and difficulties in finding suitable collaborative partners in India. 

Streamlining technology introduction

India’s new Environmental Technology Verification (ETV) process is a particularly useful channel for technology companies seeking to enter the Indian market. cGanga is managing the scheme, and the purpose is to streamline and accelerate the introduction of innovative new technologies.

“A number of companies 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.”

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. 

Having a partner like cGanga is critical for British Water and the water and wastewater supplier community, and our relationship will bring a great trading boost. 

Through collaboration, the depth of experience and expertise in the UK technology and engineering sector can be brought to bear on major environmental issues. It is anticipated that this collaboration model will bring integrated water resource management techniques to the fore and identify comprehensive solutions.

During the India-UK Water Partnership Forum, a virtual event I joined on 22 September, India’s secretary of state for water, Upendra Prasad Singh, said that his country “cannot fail” on its ambitious programmes. He added that India has an important leadership role for other countries facing similar challenges.

Weathering volatile events

So I am delighted that in this spirit British Water and cGanga will work together to shine a spotlight on water at COP26 - the 26th United Nations’ climate change conference.

The importance of water resource management is often invisible when climate change is under discussion, yet it is critical to resilience and mitigation in the face of volatile events.


The global pandemic, too, has only highlighted the importance of water as we are all asked to pay closer attention to personal hygiene. This is much easier to achieve when every household has a piped water supply and access to safe sanitation. 

India’s vision and intent to secure this critical infrastructure and enhance its environmental stewardship should be supported by the global water community. It should also galvanise other countries to move at pace towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals on water and sanitation.

Often it takes a crisis to create the momentum for change, and we are certainly facing multiple crises. In this instance, it also takes wholehearted collaboration from a global community to deliver transformation on the ground. 

Lila Thomspon

Lila Thompson

Chief Executive
British Water

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