Urban Water Program

Bangalore and its peri-urban areas are spaces where water and sanitation issues come up regularly. Individuals, communities, informal and formal service providers, and governments are working to provide solutions that address these issues. While some solutions like rainwater harvesting, wastewater treatment, and reuse are mandated, and there are numerous service providers, there is still a need to increase acceptance, document, share success stories, and encourage and catalyze further action. On the other hand, there are issues with the maintenance of stormwater drains, maintenance of STPs, and maintenance of lakes that citizens and government departments grapple with.

The grant enables individuals and organizations to address water and sanitation issues in their neighborhoods or any specific geography in Bengaluru and its peri-urban areas. The program will support the design and implementation of an idea over a year. If the sewage in your neighborhood flowing into lakes, falling groundwater tables, and dumping of sewage in the stormwater drain bothers you – here is an opportunity to take action and make a difference.

Chennai experiences several extremities concerning water, including water shortages, stagnation, and flooding almost every year.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the state’s policy focus was on groundwater recharge through rainwater harvesting. However, in practice, the public water utility has been acquiring ‘water fields’ – agricultural lands in the peripheries of Chennai where groundwater level and quality are amenable for supply to the city’s burgeoning water demands. The city has a poorly planned and severely inadequate stormwater drainage network in a high state of disrepair. The carrying capacity of existing water channels does not adequately meet the growing demand of the metropolitan. The Buckingham Canal, designed and implemented to serve as waterways for the entire city, is encroached and polluted in most parts. The commuter train line is almost entirely built over the Canal. The drastic anthropogenic alterations to the city’s natural water systems have led to an increased frequency of floods and droughts in Chennai and the vagaries of climate change. Efforts to revitalize the city’s water resources and to strengthen its defense mechanism against natural hazards are deemed unsuccessful in cases where the local community was not engaged in the process.

The governance mechanism needs to extend beyond an administrative framework and incorporate a behavioral understanding of water usage and proper demand allocation to ensure security. In that context, it is important to understand that stakeholders’ active engagement across the spectrum is imperative to achieve a successful water management and security scenario. Destruction of property and equity during extreme times can disproportionately affect the urban poor more than any other group. Thereby, Chennai’s resilience needs to be strategized to keep in mind the various socio-economic issues society faces during a crisis and daily.

Understanding the same can only be made inclusive in the local communities’ decision-making processes and given space and intend to be a change agent. The role local knowledge plays in conservation efforts is often downplayed, and in some cases, they can provide the kind of insights technology and existing data cannot offer. Following the 2015 floods, the emphasis on enabling a water-secure future for the city has gained considerable traction among the public and private sectors. Government agencies are attempting diversification of water resources, including desalination, groundwater recharge, rainwater harvesting, and water bodies’ rejuvenation – as insurance against future shocks. The government launched a large-scale, systematic program to assess the condition of several tank systems across the state in an attempt to restore their functionality, seeking to increase the city’s resilience to natural calamities.

The City of Pune in Maharashtra is entirely underlain by crystalline rocks and ancient rock formations. Basalt rocks cover 80 percent of Maharashtra.  As one of the largest basalt regions of the world, the shallow, weathered-fractured layers of basalt rocks have been tapped through the large-diameter dug wells (also called Open Wells) for centuries. There has been an increase in the number of wells in Maharashtra, so much so that the yield per well since the 1990s has seen a steady decline. This implies that the aquifer storage is now being used by many more sources than ever before, an increase by five times over the last 50-60 years.

Pune’s urban region is located in the Upper Bhima Basin, one of the large uppermost sub-basins of the Krishna River. The river falls in the system of rivers that drain water into the Ujani dam, downstream from Pune city. There are 30 small and large watersheds that constitute the catchments, and most drain into the Mula and Mutha rivers that confluence in the city.

Groundwater, in most cases, is a privately-owned resource in Pune, making it all the more challenging to engage communities in managing their resource. Advanced Center for Water Resources Development and Management (ACWADAM), through their Participatory Urban Aquifer Mapping project, has been working on a systematic mapping of groundwater resources that will lead to a long-term, strategic program on Urban Groundwater Management. The Participatory Aquifer Management project aims to integrate the science of groundwater with an enhanced understanding of the community. Such knowledge, in turn, will help in developing community-based groundwater management plans.

Program Objectives

  • Refinement of existing information on the geology and hydrogeology of Pune city and its surrounding environs by bringing in a more granular set of observations to refine the current information base of urban groundwater balance
  • Ward-wise identification of recharge and discharge areas
  • Prepare groundwater management plans at ward-level or sub-ward level (housing cooperative federations) at 3-4 locations, based on demand and supply
  • Develop a framework for groundwater governance through the integration of institutions and information through data collection and knowledge dissemination
  • Formulation of groundwater user association groups and connect to them through a web interface for better management and planning
  • Identification and inventory of springs with information on their status, discharge, and quality, leading to a synthesis of how springs contribute to water supplies and/or ecosystem services of the city
  • Identification of recharge areas for wells from different aquifers underneath Pune city
  • Long term monitoring of unconfined and confined aquifers to understand their characteristics, performance, and long-term impacts on a variety of factors
  • Establish linkage between contamination issues due to sanitation or the lack of it on different aquifer systems
  • Based on the outputs and outcomes from the above, design and run an urban literacy campaign through sensitization, awareness-building, and training of the citizenry in close co-ordination and organizing support by CEE and Mission Groundwater
  • Help prepare groundwater management plans for the Pune city by drawing upon some of the experiences from Bengaluru through the partnership support of Biome Trust
  • Provide specific inputs to clusters or habitations (urban communities) on a variety of factors such as the local status of aquifers, monitoring advice, and management of such aquifers from time to time

Hyderabad Urban Lab Foundation (HULF) curates a series of water stories on water provisioning in the city. The objective is to generate learning resources for widespread education on water provisioning in the city of Hyderabad. The water stories are published across media channels in multiple languages. Thematically, the material is organized in the following categories:

Part A:

  • Water – Understanding Flows and Governance
  • Water – the known and the unknown
  • Governance
  • Water and Seasonality
  • Water and Built Environment

Part B:

  • Tacit knowledge
  • Traditional Knowledge
  • Water and Memory

In addition to curating an online platform on Water in Hyderabad, conducting workshops and exhibits, HULF will mentor three on-ground local community interventions from conception to execution and post-execution evaluation.

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