Swachh Bharat: India, World Bank Sign Loan Agreement

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New Delhi: Government and the World Bank on Wednesday singed a $1.5 billion loan agreement for the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) to support India’s universal sanitation initiative.

The pact for the SBM Support Operation Project is to help the 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.

SBM is the country’s largest-ever drive to improve sanitation. It 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 in the Department of Economic Affairs.

The loan agreement for the project was signed by Kumar on behalf of the government and Onno Ruhl, World Bank Country Director, India on behalf of the World Bank.

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

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

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

“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.

The project will also finance specific activities to strengthen the current monitoring and evaluation system to capture timely, relevant, and reliable information on the programmes progress.

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