Innovative external governance arrangements to overcome institutional challenges
Balancing the interests and mandates with service delivery and projects and the reality of Delhi’s political economy has required innovative collaborative working. The government of Delhi NCT does not have the mandate to directly implement or control certain measures, so it has taken an approach of showing local governments how to solve problems and finding areas to collaborate with different players in state, marketplace and society for different functions and aligned outcomes.
One example of innovative governance arrangements has been in the delivery of the political pledge of ‘Jal Swaraj’, self-governance of water, to enable enhanced water security and supply. Since the ‘Jal Swaraj’ approach involved a number of projects, policies and initiatives, it came with its own set of challenges and overcoming these challenges involved the coordination and consensus building with a number of other government institutions as well as civil society and other actors. These were tackled through a myriad of arrangements, interactions and interventions from 2015-2020:
- Young professionals and scientists from Government of India have been brought together to work on sustainability bringing youthful energy and technical competence to state planning and implementation.
- Innovative policies and financial structures to promote water conservation, sewerage management, garden and park rejuvenation and water infrastructure augmentation have been undertaken by the state in partnership with citizen groups and communities.
- A new engineering division for sustainability projects was created under the water and urban flooding departments to aggregate engineers and designers by outcome. These teams are tasked with delivering a large-scale river floodplain conservation projects, moving Delhi towards 100% water and sewerage connectivity, creation of 259 water bodies and 7 lakes along with installation of thousands of decentralized sewage treatment plants. The group is chaired by the Chief Minister and the Urban Development Minister in their respective departments.
- The government has brought in sustainability experts, technologists and environmental engineers from top Indian universities, research organizations and startups to continuously improve the design and efficiency of Delhi’s water sustainability and sewerage resilience through innovative programs, practices and projects.
- Engagement with networks such as C40, international organizations such as GIZ and national universities and thinktanks of eminence have also been key to spreading a pro-environmental message, supporting delivery and providing credibility to the same.
To date, the most amount of ‘vertical integration’ between levels of government has been on a project basis between Delhi NCT and local governments – namely the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), and the Delhi Cantonment Board – and has been highly successful. Delhi government has tried to innovate in the way they with the local governments. This includes viability gap and emergency measure funding to the coffers and projects of the local bodies, as well as technical and policy discussions and submissions to align their actions with the objectives of the Delhi Government.
Delhi has effectively used partnerships, both vertically and horizontally, with external agencies and civil society groups, to effectively manage challenging governance problems and to deliver water security and reliance. External actors have also been a key part of the approach to innovation in governance in Delhi and advancing a sustainability agenda. This has all helped to support the government work around the lack of an internal sustainability department or team within the city government.
“We see youth organisations, sustainability organisations, any sort of governance or social responsibility-driven organisations, whether incorporated as a non-profit, private company, or university… we see them all as allies. Without a programmatic way to do these things, as the legislative mandate doesn’t exist, informal committees and project teams can fill in some functions of the state and the legislative space”