When the Sustainable Development Goals were envisioned by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015, they were set to transform the world by the year 2030. The 17 goals and 169 targets, which were set after 193 countries deliberated on them, are intended to stimulate universal action on issues critical to humanity and the planet comprehensively. But, for the plans to actually show positive on ground, it is imperative for countries and, in turn, local bodies across the world to work on the SDGs at a local level.
India, being one of the signatory countries of the SDGs in 2015, had embedded the concept behind them in the nation’s policy framework. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said about SDGs, “These goals reflect our evolving understanding of the social, economic and environmental linkages that define our lives.” Now, the world counts on India, one of the most populous countries of the world, to work diligently towards the achievement of these goals. In view of this, various programs, implemented either by the authorities or independently by people themselves, and policies have come up in the past five years in the country which are incorporated in such a way that betterment of the population and the environment, in line with the SDGs, is achieved. Highlighted below are a few such stories:
Eradicating Open Defecation: Swachh Bharat Abhiyan
Open defecation is a problem that India has been dealing with for centuries. The problem creates multiple public health hazards as it compromises the hygienic and sanitary conditions of open spaces. Diseases like diarrhea, typhoid and cholera are just a few of the diseases that are caused by it. So, with the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA), the government of India had its job cut out. The Mission was implemented back in 2014 and targeted 100 per cent Open Defecation Free (ODF) India by October 2, 2019. At the end of the stipulated 5 years, the world’s largest sanitation campaign was hailed as a success as India managed to install over 10.4 crore individual household toilets in all the 5,99,963 villages of the country. The campaign can be called a big victory in the path towards the achievement of SDG 6 for India by 2030.
Angandwadi: Promoting community well-being in remote parts of India
for 45 years
The Angandwadi project was implemented across India back in 1975 as a part of the Integrated Child Development Services. Ever since they come up, the Angandwadi centers are working on providing remote areas of the nation with equal developmental opportunities. The project appoints professional volunteers who are sent in the Angandwadi centers to live and work with people of the surrounding areas and play an important role in combating malnutrition especially for children of weaker groups, provide immunization from various diseases, ensure adequate nutrition and preschool education. The government has been heavily focusing on these centers as is evidenced by the allocation of a fund exceeding Rs 20,000 crore in the Union Budget of 2020-21. There are 6,719 operational projects with 1,241,749 operational Angandwadi centers till date.
Community action saves biodiversity of India
India, with its rich biodiversity, has always been a home for rich flora and fauna. But, with the inevitable expansion of urbanisation, many such biodiversity hotspots have been compromised in the recent past. However, many stories of community getting together in an effort to preserve such spots have also surfaced. Some such cases include Bhalu Mondhe and his ‘Nature Volunteers’ working towards the rapidly degrading quality of the once rich biodiversity Sirpur River. Mondhe said that since the 1970s, illegal encroachments, dumping of waste and other such activities resulted in degradation of the water quality of the lake. In view of this, he formed Sirpur Bachao Samiti in 2004 which worked out a detailed conservation plan by 2005. The Madhya Pradesh government’s environment department got behind the samiti and rehabilitation actions ensued. A barbed-wire fence was erected, embankments and pavements built, water quality improved and trees planted. Sirpur lake is today one of the healthiest natural ecosystems of the city with rich local flora and various migratory birds and reptiles residing at the spot.
The Government of India is also taking adequate measures as 243,499 biodiversity management committees (BMC) and 95,525 people’s biodiversity registers (PBR) have been established as of January 2020.
Cities for people: Bulandshahr and Patiala
As for the SDG 11, which talks about Sustainable Cities and Communities, two cases of Indian cities where work is being carried out to move the cities in this direction come to mind.
In the city of Patiala, city roads and infrastructure has been reoriented in such a way that the roads serve the community better. ‘New Urban Accessibility’ (NUA) is a prototype intervention in the city of Patiala which redesigns one of the major and prominent intersections called ‘Fountain Chowk’ from a high conflict zone to a city-wide public space that promotes accessibility and walkability, safe realm for cyclists, and resolves traffic conflicts through a pedestrian first approach. Fountain Chowk is part of a 2 km pilot corridor on one of the prime streets of the city lined with prominent public spaces, government institutions and important buildings. NUA aligns itself to the principles of SDG to leave no one behind thereby promoting safety, inclusion and long term sustainability.
The second case comes from Bulandshahr, a small town in the vicinity of the National Capital Region and having a population of approximately 2.5 lakh inhabitants. ‘Reclaim Kala Aam Intersection’ is a prototype to deliver an SDG oriented approach to planning and design in the city. The chowk is one of the most symbolic landmarks of the city and sees heavy footfalls on a daily basis. Given that more than half of the city commutes via non-motorised mode of transport, the chowk also witnesses a great share of traffic fatalities involving this vulnerable group.
Addressing this, the Office of District Administration in Bulandshahr District and Bulandshahr Development Authority (BDA), Transportation Research and Injury Prevention Programme (TRIPP) introduced an intervention to develop a safer Kala Aam Chowk for pedestrians and cyclists that is currently non-existent, traffic calming for high-speed motorists, freight vehicles and two-wheelers, safe lighting to increase visibility at crossings that reduces accidents at night. The project is part of a city-wide engagement to accelerate SDG oriented planning and design and a 2 km long pilot corridor that not only increases the safety of pedestrians, cyclists, enhances walkability but also facelifts the street and intersection as a prime public space.