The Water Agenda: Technology as a bridge between the EU and India

This article takes a look at challenges of a water stressed India and the need for establishing knowledge transfer and collaborative frameworks to enhance water management practices in India. 

Water is an increasingly contested resource across India, with the country in the throes of a serious and persistent water resource crisis due to a growing imbalance between supply and demand. The simultaneous effects of agricultural growth, industrialization and urbanization coupled with declining surface and groundwater quantity, intra and interstate water disputes, and inefficiencies in water use practices are only a few of the crucial problems faced by the water sector. Climate change and extreme climate variability are further likely to accentuate these problems.

The growth of wastewater has been inversely proportional to that of water. For instance, the agricultural sector uses around 80% of the available freshwater supply and wastes one-half to four-fifths of the irrigation water; and around 80% of water supplied becomes wastewater. Furthermore, India’s public supply and distribution systems are still far from satisfying the universal service obligations or quenching India’s  irrigation needs, and industries are increasingly coming under pressure to adopt zero (or minimal ) discharge norms.

In this operating landscape, it is essential that organisations transition towards water (and allied energy) efficiency. Given the nascent state of the technological know-how in the country on this front, Indian firms can gain significantly through collaborations with international firms. Active collaboration, with regions such as Europe, recognized as thought leader in the water-related sectors, can help shape innovative water solutions customized to address country’s unique needs.

These collaborative efforts are required at building capacity at business as also public agency level. Agencies such as the river basin authorities can gain significantly through this institutional learning thus furthering their Universal Service Obligations. 


Unlocking the innovation potential in the field of water management could significantly contribute to job creation and competitiveness, and solutions set-in-place through EU technologies could directly provide solutions to key challenges in India, particularly in recovering the resources from wastewater and ensuring the quality of water.

A slew of organizations from Europe are eyeing these opportunities in the Indian market. Some of the firms with active plans for India market include Aqua Q AB, a firm providing real-time on-line monitoring and sampling systems for quality of drinking and recycled water; and Globe Water AB, a leader in providing solutions for the treatment of leachate water, eco soil, solutions for soil remediation etc.

Catalysing many of these collaborative initiatives and developing European technologies in India to address opportunities in the water sector is The European Business and Technology Centre (EBTC). EBTC recently co-organised the Environment Flagship Mission (EFM) 2012 hosted at the India Water Impact Summit 2012 (organised by a consortium of 7 Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and ETI Dynamics, UK). One of the primary concerns of mission was to solicit clean technology companies that could address the multitude of effluents that end up in the river, particularly industries such as textiles and tanneries, sugar and distilleries and pulp and paper were targeted.

As a result of these efforts, several MoUs were etched out between Indian firms and EU companies at the recently concluded Water Impact Summit.

Another significant initiative has been the recent India Water Innovation Park (IWIP) - India’s first world class integrated applied research platform being jointly developed by ETI Dynamics (UK) and Vittal Innovation City (India) to accelerate knowledge transfer across different domains: from research to industry and from global centres of innovation to India.


The water and environmental infrastructure that is developed in the river basin must ensure that that the overall state of the river improves. The Ganga river basin is the most populated (around 500 million) and also one of the most polluted river basins in the world. The pollution levels in the river basin are staggering, with an estimation of over 12 billion litres of sewage and 4 billion litres of industrial effluent are generated in the river basin every day. Less than one-third of these are treated before they are discharged into the river. In addition to this load, it is estimated that around 52,000 tonnes of solid waste gets generated every day in this basin (Source: Gangapedia, IITK).

Whilst this is a serious environmental problem, the situation also offers tremendous opportunity to make substantial positive impact, provided the national and international community across industry, academia and government can come together to create new modes of working together including novel economic models, effective transfer of technology and an inclusive process for development of infrastructure.

Over the past three decades, EU water policy has successfully contributed to protecting water resources. Pollution from urban, industrial and agricultural sources is regulated and has brought about significant improvements in the quality of European waters, particularly by reducing an excess of nutrients. Thus, Europeans can safely drink tap water and swim in thousands of coastal areas, rivers and lakes across the EU. This experience spanning policy and implementation frameworks to technologies and innovations makes the EU a natural partner for India to help restore India’s rivers.


Clearly the opportunity is immense and the need is for architecting novel means for effecting partnerships that are useful in bridging the EU-India collaboration through clean technology. In the words of Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for Environment, “Water: we need something better, something more and something new". 


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Monish Verma has 16 years of multidisciplinary work experience in climate change (adaptation and mitigation), environmental technologies, infrastructure advisory, investment climate and business environment, renewable energy, and water, sanitation and hygiene. At present, Monish is the Sector Specialist – Environment at European Business and Technology Centre (EBTC).

Image(s) Courtesy:

Renato Ganoza


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