Tracking SDG progress the Bhopal way

  • Prelims: Current events of international importance, SDG, covid-19, G20, G7, etc.
  • Mains GS Paper II: Bilateral, regional and global grouping and agreements involving India or affecting India’s interests, Significance of G20 countries etc



  • Bhopal(MP) has become the first city in India to join the growing global movement on localisation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) following the release of its Voluntary Local Review (VLR).




Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs):

  • The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by the United Nations in 2015.
  • A universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity.
  • It is a set of 17 SDGs which recognize that action in one area will affect outcomes in others and that development must balance social, economic, and environmental sustainability.
  • Countries have committed to prioritizing progress for those who are furthest behind.
  • The SDGs are designed to end poverty, hunger, AIDS, and discrimination against women.
  • The SDGs framework sets targets for 231 unique indicators across 17 SDG goals related to economic development, social welfare and environmental sustainability, to be met by 2030.
  • The United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: It consists of 17 Goals and 169 targets as a plan of action for ‘people’, ‘the planet’, and ‘prosperity’.
  • The resolution specifies mechanisms for the monitoring, review, and reporting of progress as a measure of accountability towards the people.
  • Member-states submit a Voluntary National Review (VNR) to the UN’s High Level Political Forum (HLPF)
  • VLRs is a means for driving and reporting local implementation of SDGs at the sub-national and city levels.


India’s progress

  • NITI Aayog presented India’s second VNR at the HLPF convened in 2020.
  • India’s Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation (MoSPI) has published a National Indicator Framework (NIF) for the review and monitoring of the SDGs.
    • It contextualizes the UN’s Global Indicator Framework to represent India’s unique development journey.
  • NITI Aayog report: At least 23 States and Union Territories have prepared a vision document based on SDGs.
    • Almost all of them have initiated steps to localize the SDGs.


Voluntary local reviews (VLR):

  • It is a subnational review of the progress and challenges in implementing the SDGs at the local level.
  • It is a bottom-up and participatory approach that involves multiple stakeholders, such as civil society, the private sector, academia and citizens.
  • It aims to enhance accountability, transparency and learning among local actors, as well as to inform and influence national and global policies.


Cities and VLR:

  • At least 65% of the 169 targets could not possibly be achieved without the engagement of local urban stakeholders.
  • A VLR is a tool to demonstrate how local actions are leading the way in equitable and sustainable transformations for people and building a coalition of partners towards this endeavor.
  • It is desirable to align a city’s VLR to the State-level action plan (where availableand the country’s VNR: The process allows a great deal of flexibility to the cities to tell their story within a framework of their choice.
  • The cities could choose their priority for the VLR process:
    • Quantitative assessment using various city level indicators relevant to the SDG targets
    • A narrative that describes the efforts and vision of the city.
  • VLR should not be exhaustive in quantifying each of the 286 indicators under India’s NIF.
    • It translates the global targets under the 17 SDGs into local indicators at the national level.
    • Cities may choose specific SDGs for a detailed review as per their priority and logistical comfort.
    • They may adapt and further localize the national indicators under the relevant SDGs to reflect the city level realities.
  • Globally: Many cities choose to align their review with the SDGs that are taken up for detailed review by the HLPF in its ongoing cycle.


The Bhopal plan:

  • Bhopal’s VLR: It is the result of a collaboration between the Bhopal Municipal Corporation, UN-Habitat, and a collective of over 23 local stakeholders.
  • It has mapped 56 developmental projects to the SDGs across the three pillars, of ‘people’ (SDGs 1,3,4,5), ‘planet’ (SDGs 6,13,15) and ‘prosperity’ (SDGs 7,8,11).
  • The objectives of building basic infrastructure and resilience emerge as a priority for the city from the number of projects mapped to the SDGs.
  • Quantitative assessment of city-level indicators(SDG 11)(Sustainable cities and communities): It records Bhopal’s stellar performance in solid waste management practices, public transportation, and open spaces per capita.
  • The analysis points to areas where the city needs to work much harder in the coming years to close the distance from the goals:
    • provisioning of adequate shelter
    • high levels of air pollution
    • city planning capacity
    • even distribution and accessibility of open spaces.


Way Forward

  • VLR represents people’s process, and any city-level stakeholder may take the initiative as long as the VLR is done within the overarching framework of Agenda 2030.
  • Example: city of Canterbury in the United Kingdom where some residents and local groups came together to form a “spontaneous coalition” that did the VLR.
    • This coalition petitioned the local governments to work with city-level groups to advance the SDGs, the latter merely served as an interlocutor in the VLR process.
  • In the global South, we have the examples of local governments in Dhulikhel (Nepal), Singra (Bangladesh), and Amman (Jordan) that worked in a similar context as that of Indian cities to publish their VLRs in 2022.
  • It is a remarkable opportunity for Indian cities to tell their stories in their own vocabulary, using a framework of their choice to forefront their work at a global platform.
  • More Indian cities should follow Bhopal’s lead, to showcase urban innovations and collaborations emerging from India on the global map.



Reforming the government delivery system through the Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme is a progressive step, but it has its limitations too. Comment.(UPSC 2022) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)

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