The centre is the key facilitator of urban development despite it being a state subject. The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), which was launched in December 2005, is the biggest driver in improving the quality of life for the target population of the 63 large cities (all million plus) covered under the mega scheme.

Urban water supply and sanitation (UWSS) services in India are far from satisfactory. UWSS services are characterised by low service coverage (particularly in the case of sewerage services) and poor service delivery.

The Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway has achieved the dubious distrinction of becoming one of the most controversial projects in the history of India's road infrastructure development. Initiated in 2001 as a first of its kind in India, the project was finally made operational after a delay of over two years.

The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) was launched in December 2005 to ensure improved delivery of urban services, encourage reforms and fast track the planned development of 63 identified cities over the launch, it has succeeded in laying the foundations of efficient water supply and sanitation services in most of the mission cities.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB), in collaboration with the Ministry of Urban Development, has embarked on a Benchmarking and Water Utilities Data Book Project for 20 selected water utilities in India. These 20 utilities include 15 municipal corporations, two city boards, a municipal council, a local autonomous body and a private operator.

Programmes under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission hold the potential for transforming the urban water supply and sanitation sector. The mission is in its third year of implementation. Four urban service providers discuss the progress and their future plans in addition to the key to smooth implementation of the programme.

In an interview with Indian Infrastructure, M. Ramachandran, Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development, talked about developments in the water supply and solid waste management sectors. Among other things, he provided an insight into the issues affecting the sector, achievements made so far and private sector participation in the sector.

Several cities are now implementing bus rapid transit system (BRTS) as a measure to reduce traffic congestion and cater to increasing populations. Jaipur is making a pioneering effort in this regard by developing a bus system to cover 138 km of road length with an investment of Rs 7.83 billion on an innovative public-private partnership model.

The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) has the potential to change the face of urban water supply and sanitation (UWSS) services. It proposes an ambitious set of significant reforms over a seven-year period at the local and state levels. This could alter the quality of sector service providers and of local government in general.