A new trading relationship between the UK and India will open many doors for the water and wastewater supplier community, writes British Water chief executive Lila Thompson.

As the Indian government pushes forward with vast programmes to deliver drinking water and sanitation to every household and to restore and rejuvenate the nation’s rivers, transformational times lie ahead for the country’s 1.3 billion population. Thanks to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) agreed between British Water and the Centre for Ganga River Basin Management & Studies (cGanga), along with the National Mission for Clean Ganga, the UK supply chain has the opportunity to be part of that transformation.

With some US$200 billion of investment planned for the Indian water market, the MoU has been formalised to make it easier for the UK water industry to participate in the opportunities and for Indian companies to access global markets.

British Water has a long history of organising business development visits to India, several of which I have led myself. We have also welcomed senior delegations from India looking to partner with UK companies.

While British consultancies have generally done well in India, contractors and some technology companies have lagged behind. There are a number of historical reasons for this including the commercial structure of the Indian market, a reliance of UK companies on markets closer to home and difficulties in finding suitable collaborative partners in India.

India’s Environmental Technology Verification (ETV) process is a particularly useful channel for technology companies seeking to enter the Indian market. cGanga is managing the scheme and the purpose is to streamline and accelerate the introduction of innovative new technologies.

A number of companies, including British Water members, have already been selected for work on the Clean Ganges Programme and are already in the process of rolling out their pilots and demonstration projects. Having a partner like cGanga is critical for British Water and the water and wastewater supplier community.

Through collaboration, the depth of experience and expertise in the UK technology and engineering sector can be brought to bear on major environmental issues. It is anticipated that this collaboration model will bring integrated water resource management techniques to the fore and identify comprehensive solutions.

During the India-UK Water Partnership Forum, a virtual event I joined on 22 September, India’s secretary of state for water, Upendra Prasad Singh, said that his country “cannot fail” on its ambitious programmes. He added that India has an important leadership role for other countries facing similar challenges.

The coronavirus global pandemic too has only highlighted the importance of water as we are all asked to pay closer attention to personal hygiene. This is much easier to achieve when every household has a piped water supply and access to safe sanitation.

India’s vision and intent to secure this critical infrastructure and enhance its environmental stewardship should be supported by the global water community. It should also galvanise other countries to move at pace towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals on water and sanitation.

Often it takes a crisis to create the momentum for change, and we are certainly facing multiple crises, but in this instance, it also takes wholehearted collaboration from a global community to deliver transformation on the ground.

UK-based companies and organisations wishing to find out more about the upcoming opportunities available, should email British Water’s international manager Karolina Peret karolina.peret@britishwater.co.uk.