SDG 6 Bubble Storming Series-Part 2

Innovation- A Key to achieving SDG 6 targets

It has been over 6 months since I last wrote my blog post; I was working with Policy Advocacy Research Centre, India for a strategic project WARSA- Waste As Resource by changing Stakeholders’ Approach. We have now entered the next phase of the initiative and are in process of developing a structured roadmap.

As I mentioned in my previous post in the water blog series, Sustainable Development Goal 6 and its underlying targets are important for the proper functioning of every SDG goal directly or indirectly.

India is steadily progressing on SDG 6 there are many targets that need further fine-tuning. As India continues to set frameworks for achieving targets with national indicators, there are some critical SDG targets. Using science, technology and innovation can help improve these indicators’ monitoring and boost performance.

According to the SDG National Indicator Framework for circulation, the following are the set national indicators for these critical targets.

IndicatorIndicator DescriptionImprovement Areas
6.1.1Percentage of the population having safe and adequate drinking water within the premises1- Quality checks of the water in the area.
2- Finding out sustainable ways in which we can ensure an adequate water supply.
6.1.2Percentage of population using an improved drinking water source (Rural)1- Need to develop standards for improved drinking water quality.
6.2.1Proportion of households having access to a toilet facility (Urban & Rural) 1- Need to develop the proper system in highly crowded areas such as slums.
6.2.2Percentage of districts achieving open defecation free (ODF) target1- Standard reporting mechanism for all districts.
6.2.3Proportion of schools with separate toilet facilities for girlsNot Applicable.
6.3.1Percentage of sewage treated before discharge into
surface water bodies
1- Developing stringent regulations.
2- Ensuring compliance and transparency in the reporting.
3- Developing innovative smart ways to monitor the changes. (sensors, IoT)
4- Forming a regulatory policy with strong legal actions.
6.3.2 Percentage of industries(17 categories of highly polluting industries/grossly polluting industry/red category of industries) complying with wastewater treatment as per CPCB norms.1- Developing stringent regulations.
2- Ensuring compliance and transparency in the reporting.
3- Developing innovative smart ways to monitor the changes. (sensors, IoT)
4- Forming a regulatory policy with strong legal actions.
6.3.3 The proportion of wastewater treatment capacity
created vis-à-vis total generation
1- Developing cost-effective technologies for the reuse of the water for non-drinking purposes.
6.4.1 Percentage groundwater withdrawal against availability1- There is a need for a strong groundwater usage policy in place.
2- Groundwater quality improvement measures.
3- There is no current emphasis given to groundwater pollution control and its mitigation.
6.5.1Percentage area of river basins brought under integrated water resources management.1- Integrated systems will be important and can not be achieved without strong collaboration.
6.6.1 The area under over-exploited blocks1- Monitoring over urbanization by blocking the lakes and small canals 
2- Developing technologies to overcome overexploitation.
6.6.2Percentage sewage load treated in major rivers1- Developing smart technologies for monitoring and reporting.
2- Stringent regulations for treated sewage water standards.
6.6.3Biological assessment information of
surface water bodies.
1- Developing smart technologies for monitoring and reporting.
2- Characterization of a biological burden on surface water bodies, and identifying contamination source.
3- setting up testing facilities to monitor.
Improvement Areas are mentioned according to the author’s own understanding of the subject. The subject expertise can further explore this.

Localizing monitoring frameworks for the SDG can further improve the situation, but this requires sensitization of every stakeholder involved in the system and their active participation.

The wider impact of each SDG 6 target on the other SDG indicators will be discussed in the upcoming posts!

Major Issues to be addressed by strong actions and proper legislation are as follows.

  • Unsafe groundwater supplies in rural areas.
  • Need for identification and definitions of water protection areas.
  • Conflicts between (a) intensive agriculture, and (b) water quality protection from agrochemical pollution.
  • Groundwater pollution from municipal wastewater.
  • Policy issues related to the use of surface water are linked to pollution and dilution requirements during periods of low flows.
  • Conflict between (a) licensing and (b) quality control of pesticides, carried out by the same agency.
  • Financing and implementation of municipal wastewater treatment up to the desired standards.
  • Collection and treatment of industrial urban rainwater runoff.
  • Poorly managed solid-waste dumping sites.
  • Consideration of stepwise, time-programmed implementation of industrial effluent standards.
  • Need to consider economic and social consequences of effluent standards and water quality objectives
  • Industry to have access to clean technology for safe disposal of waste. Defining roles and strict regulatory compliance norms.
  • Industry to have access to clean technology for safe disposal of waste.
  • Inefficiency and operational problems of joint industrial and municipal wastewater treatment.

According to the constitution of India, the responsibility of water resources development and management rests with individual states. Therefore, we can say that water governance in India is decentralized at the state level. Central governments and State governments can not do this alone, but with the support from every stakeholder, it will be possible to build synergies in the sector. Aligning business corporations with UN SDG 6 in collaboration with innovative start-ups can be one way to look forward to building ecosystems around the goal.

One of the research papers published explains the weaker bonds between the entire value chain actors.

Looking at SDG 6 from innovation, research, and development lenses, one can agree that there are gaps to be sealed by the technological, policy, and behavioral interventions.

While considering the future, can innovation in this space help improve the national indicator performance?

Look at the global startup heat map around SDG 6!

The vertical is full of opportunities and needs strong commitments. If you look at the global startup heat map of companies providing direct contributions for improving the SDG 6 where does India stand? Supporting SDG 6 with CSR activities is different, but improving the targets using innovative science like AI, or machine learning is different!

According to a forecast report from, globally developing start-up clusters for SDG 6 are as follows. 

  • Sanitation
  • Water efficiency
  • Wastewater treatment
  • Irrigation technologies
  • Water management

Technological breakthroughs and creativity are critical to advancing the SDGs and reducing the time and cost necessary to achieve results. The adoption of novel sustainability solutions goes beyond society’s call for greater transparency and accountability.

Let us explore the opportunities in SDG 6 and its inter-linkages with other SDG targets.

Wish you happy festive days ahead!



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