Thursday, May 30, 2019

Urban Water Workshop

The Urban Water Workshop was held on April 25th and 26th at the School of Ancient Wisdom, Bangalore. The WIPRO funded workshop provided a platform for experts across the country to come together and share their experiences working in the water field. There were around 42 members who attended the two day event, that includes academicians, lake group members, water professionals and government officials, to name a few.

  Group photo taken on the last day
One the first day we had presentations and open house discussions on 4 major topics that are listed below. Dr. Himanshu Kulkarni , Shubha Ramachandran and S. Vishwanath set the context for the workshop.

Topic 1: Groundwater and its participatory management
1. Dr. Himanshu Kulkarni, ACWADAM
  • Through citizen participation ACWADAM created an aquifer map, which was 85% accurate when compared to a technical survey
  • Pune states that it is completely dependent on surface water but ACWADAM’s research showed that 50% of the water supply in Pune comes from groundwater
2. Yogesh Jadeja, Arid Communities and Technologies
  • Case Study of Bhuj, making Bhuj self reliant on its water resources through participatory groundwater movement
  • Government officials, volunteers, academicians, citizens and NGOs all came together. Trained ‘Bhujal Jankars’ for aquifer mapping and monitoring. With everyone’s help they have created a groundwater recharge plan for Bhuj
3. Shubha Ramachandran, Biome
  • Spoke about Participatory Aquifer Mapping in Sarjapur road in South East of Bengaluru
  • Most of peri-urban Bangalore depends on groundwater as they are not connected to the Cauvery water supply
  • Move away from the idea that the deeper you go the more water you find. 
  • Rainbow Drive, a private layout that is completely independent of public water supply shows the benefits of shallow aquifer recharge
4. Eklavya Prasad, Megh Pyne Abhiyan
  • Created a group of students from Carmel school to become the future water leaders, they are called the Gang of 20
  • Student participation survey showed that 65% depended on groundwater, 31% on piped water supply and 4% depended on both.
  • Why Dhanbad Municipal Council (DMC) is so focused on piped water supply when majority of the people depend on groundwater?
5. Shubha Avinash, Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Center (KSNDMC)
  • Marked 174 most floodable areas in Bangalore
  • Rain gauge, weather sensors and water level sensors set up in Bangalore. There are 100TRG in BBMP area, 6 TWS and 6 water level sensors to monitor and manage water levels.
  • Use hydrological modeling and flood forecast systems to create an early warning system
Bhakti Devi from Neer Infinite provides hands on training to teach participants how to provide solutions to apartments, Bala Bangalore Apartments Federation (BAF) stated that BAF has over 4000 apartments that is participating in better water management and they also created the “half bucket challenge” to encourage citizens to save water during the summer, and Virupax from Smarter Homes spoke about their water metering systems that help communities save over 35% of their water.

Discussion- Some key points that came up during the Open House are: 
  • How do we ensure equitable distribution of groundwater? 
  • How do you ensure everyone in the “community” is involved? 
  • Once groundwater data is shared publicly, how will it affect real estate, migration and government deals?
  • How do we change the psychology related to groundwater?

 Ekalavya sharing his experiences 
Topic 2: Local water resources in higher education 
1. Mona Iyer, CEPT University
  • Spoke about the learning pedodgy at CEPT, learning is emphasised through practical research, lectures, field visits, studios and by taking into account different stakeholders such as NGO/s, civil society organisations and government organisations.
  • A studio project is where students engage with local governments and practitioners to work on existing development plans and projects. Some water and sanitation studio exercises are City Sanitation Plan for Kalol Nagarpalika, Water services and sanitation: Surat Metropolitan area and Water and Sanitation in Vadodara
2. Neha Sarwate, MSU
  • Vishwamitri River System, lessons towards reviving Vadodara’s vital lifeline
  • Meandering river indicates that its living, common trend to straighten its path indicates that the river is being killed
  • Taking a multi and interdisciplinary approach by working with architects, geographers, botanist, zoologists, engineers, wildlife experts, students, activists, economists, sociologists and hydrologists
  • Understand the importance and role of academia
  • inclusion of ecological sciences and ethics across all levels of academic curriculum.

3. Sachin Tiwale, TISS
  • TISS created a center for water policy, regulation and governance
  • Interdisciplinary approach to education; law, economics, finance, hydrology, hydrogeology, water chemistry and social sciences
  • Moving beyond centralised water supply system to meet the water requirements

4. Ananth Mariganti, Hyderabad Urban Lab (HUL)
  • Definition of local varies with time, there is no clear definition of what is a local. New sewage lines added to a local storm water drain, eventually becomes “local”.
  • Before proving solutions, the problem itself needs to be understood thoroughly. It’s important to redescribe the existing problems in understandable ways, instead of proving new solutions.

Discussion- Some key points that came up during the Open House are: 

  • Improve the connection between education and policy, think more about real life applications rather than theories.
  • How do you improve communication between departments in an institution?
  • We need both soft advocacy and hard advocacy, but hard advocacy costs a lot of money and time
  • What approach do you take for riverfront design at universities, is there a fixed way of thinking or a question up for debate?
  • Start education on environment and ethics early not just in higher education.

 Ananth sharing his insights on local resources

Topic 3: Lakes/rivers/canals revival and community participation

1. Akshay Agarwal and Lokesh Ohri, Been There, DOON That

  • Reviving Uttarakhand's Heritage of Irrigation Canal through citizen participation
  • Organise history/cultural walks and talks about the canals
  • They have been able to save small stretches but hope to work more with the locals and the government bodies to save the canals in Dehradun
2. Ajay Nayak, RIVER-se
  • Revival of Dahisar, Boisar and Oshiwara river in Mumbai
  • Focused on how to create an identity with the river for people to connect with
  • Community engagement from local stakeholders, tribal communities living along the river, dhobis, missionary workers, social activists, students
  • Organised workshops, volunteering activities, tree planting drive and River March
3. Dr. Annapurna Kamath, Jalaposhan
  • Nurturing Jakkur lake
  • Jakkur lake receives treated wastewater which enters a constructed wetland before entering the lake
  • Considered all stakeholders from fishermen, grass cutters, washer men, local residents, migrated residents and elected representatives
  • Collaborate with all stakeholders to resolve issues, the citizen group acts as point of convergence for all agencies
4. Shailaja Deshpande, Jeevitnadi- Living River Foundation
  • Revival of river Mutha through public participation
  • All programs organised by the river banks: Kathak, puppet show, nature trails, science magic, street plays, kirtan and saritayan
  • Organised different events such as Muthai Festival, Muthai Walk, River Story, Adopt a Stretch and Toxin Free Lifestyle
Discussion- Some key points that came up during the Open House are: 
  • How difficult is it to start an initiative? 
  • Are these initiatives sustainable? 
  • How do you get funding for these initiatives and is it hard to get funding?

   Akshay and Lokesh talking about the Revival of the Irrigation Canals in Uttarakhand

Topic 4: Protecting and rejuvenating local water bodies: battling vested interests and citizen-governance engagement
1. Chetan Agarwal, Center for Ecology Development and Research (CEDAR)
  • Mostly worked in Himalayan and Aravalli towns
  • Case against the State of Haryana that claimed an area was not part of a forest, planned on cutting 7000 trees for a housing project but the NGT judgement stated that the land in question is held to be a ‘deemed forest’
  • Zoning and protection of natural recharge areas such as the Aravallis, water bodies, nullahs and flood prone areas will reduce the risk of flooding
2. Sarang Yadwadkar, Justice for Rivers
  • Encroachment of lake beds, so drastic that a lake bed was moved from the left side of a river to the right side of a river
  • Floodline maps, ignored during construction.
  • A question he posed is “Are we only tackling the symptoms or are we addressing the root cause? What are the root causes?” Some possible root causes are insufficient laws, incompent bureaucracy, greed, apathy and shortage of natural resources.
3. Ramprasad, Friends of Lakes
  • Conflicts within lake groups themselves, no clear solution or idea
  • We need both soft advocacy and hard advocacy groups to get work done
Discussion- Some key points that came up during the Open House are: 
  • How to legally fight an encroachment case?
  • Experience taking up a case against the NGT

The second day started with site visits in Devanahalli, we first went to Bettakote lake, behind the airport, to learn more about groundwater management in the area. We learnt about the borewells and open wells in the region and also learned about the different entrepreneurial borewell services that have come up in the area, one innovative method to prevent water from shallow aquifers draining into deeper aquifers is to place a deflated volleyball at the required depth and then fill the volley ball with air to block the borewell at that depth. We then saw farms where wastewater was reused for cultivation and our last stop was at the Fecal sludge treatment plant(FSTP).
Avinash starting the site visits by introducing Devanahalli Town
The site visits were followed by a discussion on the site visits and ended with a discussion on how to move forward with the workshop. Dr. Himanshu Kulkarni listed his 6 major learning from the workshop, it is shown below on the right side of the image.
Concluding thoughts on the workshop
Overall, the workshop was a great place for people from different backgrounds to interact and share their knowledge and experience. For me personally it was an enriching learning experience, and I look forward to more such workshops.