Water for cities - Responding to the urban challenge – Technical papers from the Third National Groundwater Congress by CGWB

The third national Groundwater Congress was organized by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) at New Delhi on March 22-23, 2011 with the view to bring together administrators, groundwater professionals, representatives from industries, non government organizations and water users to share their knowledge and experiences and to discuss various issues concerning water management.

Deliberations in the Congress organized by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) at New Delhi on March 22-23, 2011 focused on various issues viz., Integrated Water Resource Management, Artificial Recharge to Groundwater, Water Use Efficiency, Groundwater Quality and its Regulation. The Congress addressed the pertinent issues of groundwater with focus on water supply for cities and challenges involved in its management.

This volume is a collection of 25 technical papers, under six identified themes.

Theme I: Rainwater Harvesting and Artificial Recharge in Urban Areas

A paper “Rainwater harvesting and artificial recharge in urban areas of Raipur city” deals with the results of rainwater harvesting and artificial recharge works in the city. The positive impact of scientific management of rainwater on groundwater regime of Raipur urban area is highlighted. The success of this plan can now be replicated in other urban centers of peninsular India in general and karstic terrains in particular as a tool for supply side management.


Hydrogeology of Raipur urban area

Another paper, “Groundwater regime in Bhubaneshwar city and possibility of artificial recharge to meet the water demand” suggests that this is a lateritic plateau area. As these areas are source of recharge to groundwater reservoirs of the city (direct recharge to phreatic aquifers and indirectly to deeper fracture zones aquifers) judicious management measures in these areas on priority are needed so that alarming situations can be avoided. Rainwater harvesting and recharge to groundwater needs to be taken up in these areas immediately. Indiscriminate boring, particularly by the multistoried dwelling or other complexes should be restricted, which brings about groundwater depletion in local pockets due to continuous pumping at very high discharge rates.

Theme II: Need for Integrated Water Resource Management in Urban Areas

The key paper by Central Water Commission on the theme attempts to highlight the importance of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) at river basin level, important conditions for IWRM and role of River Basin Organizations in holistic and integrated development & management of water resources. The paper also lists the important steps we need to take to achieve IWRM with focus on development and management aspects, water quality aspects, environmental aspects, economic and financial management, institutional framework, policy framework, legal aspects and research & development needs in water sector.

A paper by Arghyam dealt with its joint initiative with the Town Municipal Council of Mulbagal, Karnataka to build the capacity of the local body and create a stakeholders platform for participatory planning. The paper notes that there are policy gaps that impede the adoption of integrated urban water management (IUWM). There are no policies or schemes that incentivize cities/ towns to draw up integrated plans. Also there are no pro-poor policies, especially critical in urban areas witnessing a lot of migration. As regards governance, the paper states that “new institutional structures, financial and regulatory mechanisms will have to emerge if IUWM is widely accepted; small towns, therefore, offer a green field opportunity. Moreover, towns do not have the political muscle, nor are they the seats of state government, nor do they have the economies of scale to create the vast, received model infrastructure that exists in Delhi or Bangalore.”


Theme III: Water Use Efficiency

This session had a paper on “Urban water use efficiency and civil society in India” which suggests the need for formulating a legal framework for the development of water use efficiency plans and programmes. There is a need to regulate the use of efficient plumbing fixtures in all new construction and replacement projects. Wherever necessary there is s need to incorporate water-use efficiency provisions into the existing policies, strategies, programmes and plans for water supply management and development.


Un-maintained and maintained earthen and lined watercourses 

Theme IV: Groundwater Pollution in Urban Areas

A paper by the Central Pollution Control Board on this topic states that “the over-exploitation of groundwater is widespread across the country and is gradually increasing. The inappropriate land use practice, fast deforestation in the country, limits the groundwater recharge potential. With given situation, future water demands can be met in absolute quantity and a quality term only through pragmatic planning that includes highest priority to water conservation, recycling/ reuse of municipal and industrial wastewater and increase in efficiency in various uses.”

Theme V: Climate Change and Groundwater Sustainability and Role of MGNREGA in Rainwater Harvesting and Artificial Recharge

The papers in this theme deal with the need to prepare a comprehensive, flexible and use friendly framework for planning and policy analysis under climate variability and uncertainty scenarios. They discuss the need to develop regional scenarios of expected intra-seasonal, inter-annual climate variability over all the major hydrogeological provinces of the country to assess the likely changes in availability and demand of groundwater in space and time.

There is a need to evaluate adaptation strategies in all the major hydrogeological environs to alleviate negative impacts of climate change and variability. Large sums of public investments available under MGNREGA provide an excellent opportunity for construction of artificial recharge structures in rural areas. These structures would not only provide sustainability to groundwater resources but would help in mitigating the adverse impact of climate change in India. A proper scientific framework of activities linking rainwater harvesting and artificial groundwater recharge with MGNREGA could provide sustainability to the scheme as well as to the socio-economic and socio-environmental fronts.

Theme VI: Groundwater Regulation in Urban Areas

The three papers on groundwater regulation discuss how intense competition among users – agriculture, industry and domestic sectors – is putting the groundwater regime to a great stress. The paper by Central Ground Water Board, New Delhi suggests that no single action whether community based, legislation, traditional harvesting systems, or reliance on market forces will in itself alleviate the crisis in India. The effective answer to the freshwater crisis is to integrate conservation and development activities – from water extraction to water management – at the local level, making communities aware and involving them fully is therefore critical for success. All this will ultimately pave the way for combining conservation of the environment with the basic needs of the people.

A paper by Public Works Department, Chennai while discussing the case of implementation of the Chennai Metropolitan Area Groundwater (Regulation) Act 1987 states that so far it has yielded good results in improving the groundwater level, its quality and curbed illegal drawal and transportation of groundwater.

According to a paper by Groundwater Survey and Development Agency, Pune while framing groundwater legislation groundwater needs to be treated as a common pool resource and placed under community management. Similarly, the issues like forming user groups for use and management of groundwater and its conservation, constituting regulatory authority, establishing conflict resolution mechanism etc., should also be considered. Alternate theoretical approaches to the management of sanction by involving community in the regulatory process, is a must. More positive and conciliatory sanctions are relevant for regulation and management.



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