These challenges need urgent attention

Availability of adequate, safe water is a crucial determinant of quality of life. The situation in many parts of our country and indeed of the world has reached alarming proportions. Cape Town and Shimla are recent examples of the extreme stress caused by water scarcity. Relentless urbanization combined with climate change induced rainfall uncertainty, underinvestment, and a crippling lack of awareness among citizens have led to widespread and rapid deterioration of rivers, lakes and other water bodies. There is an alarming depletion of groundwater resources along with rising contamination.
Water usage in both, urban setting as well as in agriculture requires several measures to address the crisis. Widespread awareness building is necessary to secure appropriate behaviour and water usage by citizens. Alongside, several measures by local governments including full metering, pushing for water conservation, reuse and recycling, and technology incubation will all be required in full earnest.
NITI Aayog, in a recent report, has highlighted the extremely precarious situation stating that ‘By 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people’. In this issue of Urban Update we cover some aspects of this report and carry related views by authors on this crucial subject of water security.
Among other crucial issues for the world today is employment, job creation and securing livelihoods for millions especially the more vulnerable sections. In India, for example, the number of new job-seekers entering the job market every month is estimated at one million. This number is expected to increase steadily for a long time until it peaks in 2050. Skilling, employability and employment are therefore among the biggest challenges for policymakers today.
July 15 is observed as World Youth Skills Day by the United Nations. A General Assembly Resolution in December 2014 enabled this. This initiative by the UN recognizes the vital role of skilling in the economy to enable all sections of society, especially the youth to meet their aspirations and enable them access complex and dynamic labour markets. This further supports the move towards more just, equitable and inclusive societies as envisaged in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Skilling is an essential process of enabling the youth access gainful employment and a decent livelihood. But the challenges in India are substantial. Manufacturing, once the employer of large numbers, especially of ‘shop-floor’ workers has gradually transformed into a very sophisticated sector demanding higher level skills, knowledge and attitudes. Increasing use of robotics and advanced automation have reduced employment intensity of manufacturing.
The growing services sector in our country still retains high employment intensity. However, these sectors call for more than just core job skills. In the IT, banking and insurance sectors for example, language literacy is very important as the work calls for substantial intra-team and inter-team, as well as external communication and interface. There is therefore need for ‘soft skills’. While employers usually hone new recruits’ core skills through training, they expect soft skills to be part of his/her tool-kit.
Our skilling efforts must address these needs.
Alongside the South Asian Cities Summit, AIILSG organized the International Skill Conclave in Delhi in May this year. The event drew encouraging participation and lively discussion and debates among the International and Indian delegates and witnessed valuable information sharing. We shall continue to focus on the subject along with our several ongoing efforts 10and initiatives.

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