The urban population in India was estimated to be 34.5% in 2019, as per the World Bank. There has been an increase in urbanization by almost 4% in the last decade due to a greater number of people migrating from rural areas to cities in search of better job opportunities. It is estimated that at this rate by 2030 and further in 2050, the population in Indian cities will go beyond 40% and 50%, respectively.
With the growing population, expanding economies, urbanization, and changing lifestyles there has been a significant impact on our economic, social, and environmental well-being due to increasing pressure on already strained water resources. The rapid population growth along with rising consumption levels and pollution contributes to spiralling water insecurities in urban India.
The depleting water resources together with rising water demand limits the possibility to augment the water supply in future. The rising effects of climate change may further aggravate the situation by generating a higher magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events and by altering precipitation volume and pattern. This shall have adverse effects on the available sources of fresh water supply.
Water is the most important ‘resource flow’ in an urban area, driven by a complex set of intersecting socio-economic, political, infrastructural, hydrological, and other factors. These drivers vary a great deal within a city and have a significant impact on the water flow and its management. Thus, to address the issue of water flow and its management in a city, both micro-and macro-level studies are required.
Water stress has specifically magnified in metropolitan cities including Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, Pune, etc., with depleting groundwater levels, widening of water demand and supply gap, and rising pollution in water bodies, to name a few. Thus, to combat these issues, there is a need to enhance sustainable water flow management in cities.
In this context, Mahindra-TERI Centre of Excellence (MTCoE) carried out a study to assess water sustainability in Chennai, Gurugram, and Pune. The recent report on 'Water sustainability assessment of Gurugram’ presents the water sustainability assessment of the millennium city.
The aim was to undertake an assessment of potential risks associated with the water sources and demand and supply at the city level to provide recommendations to mitigate the same.
To achieve this, desk-based research was carried out by exploring different types of literature. A number of official reports and documents, Acts, etc., by the state government (Haryana), urban local bodies, municipalities, and other concerned institutions including research by private organizations were studied.
Various parameters were analysed including city growth, land use, demographics, social and economic character, water policies and institutional set-up at central, state, and city levels, and water sources and the related infrastructure.
The parameters were essential to find avenues for water sustainability, quantify anthropogenic and natural flows into and out of a town, and develop a metaphorical framework of water metabolism of an area to analyse water flows within it and to select dominant indicators that impact urban hydrology. The study of these parameters led to the identification of potential risks associated with urban hydrology and water management in Gurugram, especially focusing on the aspects related to stakeholder engagement and flood risk.
To overcome these threats, a list of recommendations was prepared. The study also goes a step further to identify the reasons for the weak implementation of the proposed recommendations and suggests measures to strengthen them.
The report highlights the crucial measures that can be adopted by the existing and upcoming residential townships in India to achieve water use optimization and efficiency.
Sustainable water use in habitats is one of the key areas of research of the Mahindra-TERI CoE, which aims to develop science-based solutions for India’s built environment. The guidelines can play a pivotal role in aiding townships to move on the path of becoming net water positive. It recommends measures that are innovative, practical and easy to implement as they have been developed after conducting thorough research and water audits of several townships across India to understand the issues and design solutions accordingly.
The guidelines suggest sustainable design options, technologies, operation and maintenance measures that can be adopted for water-related systems and infrastructure in the township and incorporate best practices by the user for attaining water efficiency.
The report stresses on three-pointers – reducing water usage, harnessing alternative water sources and integrating green infrastructure – to achieve water efficiency in a residential township.
It has been prepared to help building professionals, researchers, real estate developers, policymakers, administrative agencies and end-users to generate awareness of the aspects of water sustainability and provide potential solutions to overcome the challenges.
Development of an Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) plan using a bottom-up approach
IWRM is a process that promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land, and other related resources to maximize economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems and the environment. It is a cross-sectoral policy approach, designed to replace the traditional, fragmented sectoral approach toward water resource management.
As the local nature and needs of water-related services, resources, and management vary, it is ideal that the task of managing them is handed over to institutions in a decentralized manner. A bottom-up approach for an institutional framework with the active involvement of local stakeholders is essential for the effective planning and execution of any programme aimed at water management in the region.
Decentralization of water governance structure
Firstly, there should be a sustained political will and a strong commitment to the implementation of the designed water-related plans and policies, which can translate into prioritization through different layers of government and effective course correction. However, due to changes in the leadership, the commitment may change.
Therefore, it becomes important to decentralize and delegate the decisionmaking powers to local levels of governance, which largely would remain unaffected by the election results. Political devolution is also required because it is unlikely that political commitment can be effectively built or sustained by focusing on any single type of stakeholder.
Rather, there is a need to consider all the actors involved in the policy space, for example, urban local bodies, urban planners, utility providers, industries, citizens, non-governmental organizations, etc., who are needed to support the programme and its transition.
Improving efficiency in creating water-related databases
There are two possible processes by which the databases can be strengthened, which are as follows: Firstly, there is a constant need to update and convert the capacity building into an ongoing process for the water-administering bodies. It is time to reimagine capacity building by creating a municipal capacity building management system for all stakeholders, including municipal employees, councillors, and citizens.
This system could be involved in conducting a training-need analysis, creating quality training materials, and arranging for field training. The system could assess the need for lateral hiring of professionals and engaging private institutions, research agencies, and corporates for capacity enhancement. Also, to conduct training, an urban local body needs funds. The system could create blocks that would work towards collaboration with national and international funding agencies and tapping into CSR.
The other alternative can be to engage external stakeholders including NGOs, research institutes, private entities, etc., who have expertise in water-related areas and can play an important role in populating data and its management, research and analysis, and infuse new ideas.
The full report can be viewed here
The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) is an independent, multi-dimensional research organization, with capabilities in policy research, technology development, and implementation.
About Mahindra Lifespace Developers Ltd.
A pioneer of the green homes movement, Mahindra Lifespaces® is the real estate and infrastructure development business of the Mahindra Group, and a pioneer of sustainable urbanisation in India. It is one of the first real estate companies in India to have committed to the global Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).