Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Presentation at the National Consultation on Urban Drinking Water and Sanitation for the 12th Plan

The National Consultation on Urban Drinking Water and Sanitation, for the Planning Commission of Government of India, to provide input into the approach paper to the 12th Five Year Plan was held on December 15, 2010 at New Delhi. A submission pertaining to peri-urban areas which have emerged over the last six months during the scoping study phase of the Peri-Urban Water Security Project was made by Dr. Vishal Narain and Ms. Sreoshi Singh having the following points: 

Mainstreaming Periurban Issues in Policy and Planning 

As urbanization proceeds, the distinction between ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ tends to get blurred, and more of the intermediary, periurban zone becomes visible. Periurban issues need better reflection in policy and planning.

  1. There is a need for rigorous studies of the carrying capacity of cities. Urban expansion plans need to be based on the carrying capacity of cities. Otherwise, the ecological foot-print of cities continues to spill over the peripheral areas, engulfing the land and water resources of the peripheral villages, depriving locals their access to land, water and other natural resources. This breeds a pattern of urbanization that is inequitable and unsustainable. Urban development policies need to revisit and revise the existing building by-laws in peri-urban areas, which often ignore the negative consequences of urban expansion for the socially and economically marginalized communities who are affected by the development enclaves leading to reduced access to clean and safe water sources as well as other natural resources.

  1. Increasingly, we need to devise ways of breaking the rural and urban dichotomy in planning. The focus of urban authorities on urban expansion and rural authorities on rural areas often implies that the relationships across ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ go unaddressed. Even if the peri-urban areas fall within a development zone, the focus tends to be largely urban-centric with little efforts to integrate rural development with the activities undertaken. The 74th Amendment to the Constitution of India provides for the creation of DPCs (District Planning Committees) to integrate planning at a district level. There is a need for such committees to be set up and similar other institutions as well to better integrate planning across rural and urban areas.

  1. There is a need to better recognize flows of water across rural and urban areas. The dichotomy between ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ water supply is superficial and overlooks the flows of water between rural and urban areas – that will become more visible with ongoing processes of urbanization. Often expansion of urban water supply is at the expense of rural water supply, as peri-urban residents give away their land and water to allow canals to pass through to quench urban thirst, or allow water to be transported from their villages to the city in tankers.

  1. There is a need for policies to conserve natural resources in peri-urban areas through local community initiatives, instead of giving them away on lease to development enclaves, to serve their water needs for recreational purposes. They are often a source of livelihoods for the landless as well as for the resource poor farmers.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Project presentation at IDRC- SARO

On November 8, 2010, Vishal Narain made a project presentation at the IDRC - SARO in New Delhi. The purpose of the presentation was to share the project conceptualization, objectives and methodology as well as emerging insights from the field. Present at the presentation were Mark Attwood, Programme Leader, Climate Change and Water, Marco Rondon, Senior Programme Specialist, Climate Change and Water, Sara Ahmed and other colleagues from IDRC and Marie-Helene Zerah,  Senior Researcher Fellow, Centre de Sciences Humaines, New Delhi. Surabhi Mehrotra from Jagori shared results from their UPE/CCW project  Women's Rights and Access to Water and Sanitation in Asian Cities, based in two urban resettlement colonies in Delhi.

The presentation by Vishal was followed by a round of discussion on a number of issues such as the project conceptualization, similarities or variations across the research sites, the dynamics of land acqusition in the research location, and how the team would address issues of equity and vulnerability in the research sites , as well as the interaction of stressors from climate change and urbanization. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Training programme and Exposure Visits on Rainwater Harvesting

One of our Research Associates, Ms Anushiya Shrestha from Nepal Engineering College, attended a training programme organised at the Watershed Organization Trust (WOTR) training centre in Darewadi from 18th to 27th October 2010. Participants came from different countries like Nepal, Indonesia, Yemen, Switzerland, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Sudan and Burundi.

The training included presentations, demonstrations, field visits and interactions with the local communities aimed in enhancing the skills and approaches for community –based watershed management.
Facilitators from WOTR introduced the concept of watershed along with genesis of watershed development concepts. They also shared WOTR’s experiences and the way it has influenced the way resources are allocated for the overall watershed development strategy at the local, state and national level.

The vision and conceptual framework of WOTR inspiringly described watershed development as the interrelated activities of conservation, regeneration and judicious utilization of all the resources- land, water, vegetative, animal and human- within a particular watershed. Watershed development seeks to bring about an optimal equilibrium in the eco space between natural resources, man and animals.

 The training session involved mutual interactions among the participants and the facilitators with sharing of the understanding and experiences from diverse parts of the world.   The program also clearly revealed that the changes that watershed development projects bring into the lives of people can best be represented through the model villages, one of them being, Darewadi. The development processes involved in the implementation of the watershed was initiated through capacity building phase.

The crux of the training provided insight, while implementing process of capacity building, it needs to be kept in mind that the capacity building activities do not or should not discontinue at the end of the temporal phase of capacity building, but continue through the entire period. This included creating awareness regarding basic concept of watershed through multiple exposure visits.

The training also provided information about the application of information technology for developmental planning. Screening of films documented by WOTR during different projects made the evenings very entertaining and informative. The programme closed with exposure visits to organic farms based on “Natueco Methodology” and a visit to historical and archeological sites in Ahmednagar.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Workshop on ‘Towards Sustainable and Climate Resilient Urban Development’

One of our Lead Researchers, Dr Vishal Narain and Senior Research Fellow, Ms Sreoshi Singh, participated in a workshop titled ‘Towards sustainable and climate resilient urban deelopment’  held at the Indian Habitat Centre, organised jointly by IRADe (Integrated Research and Action for Development) and ISET(Institute for Social and Economic Transition).

The workshop showcased the efforts of ACCCRN (Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network), which works in ten cities in 4 countries aiming to make these cities resilient to the impacts of climate change. Surat, Gorakhpur and Indore are the three Indian cities that have undertaken some resilience planning under the auspices of the ACCCRN.

The workshop, itself, was structured around the study and identification of vulnerable groups of people in these cities. SLDS – or shared learning dialogues - were an important aspect of the methodology used in developing climate resilient city plans. The thrust of much of the discussions in the workshop was on mainstreaming climate resilience into City Development Plans and Master Plans. An important issue identified in the deliberations – with particular relevance for our work - is the absence of carrying capacity studies for cities, which need to be the basis of urban planning and expansion. Indeed, periruban issues arise because the carrying capacity of cities is perhaps not systematically studied or factored into the expansion plans of cities. This is a general point relevant across our study locations.

Several other issues came up in the course of the deliberations with some relevance for our work:

1)      To understand vulnerability, one needs to look at the irregular income streams of households and the factors that contribute to the irregularity  
2)      The lack of climate data and information can be an important stumbling block in research

Dr Narain's notes 
All the discussions seemed to stay confined to the sustainability and climate resilience of the cities and those who lived in them. Even when participants spoke about the poor, it was with reference to the poor who lived in the cities, rather than those at the peripheries whose land and water these cities would acquire to grow, or even to become sustainable and climate resilient.
I spoke to other researchers about our project, who found the concept interesting, relevant and topical. Notably I took this opportunity to interact with the ISET Team . I spoke to representatives of TARU, the Action Research Unit, which has an office in Gurgaon.

International conference on ‘Pathways to sustainability: agendas for a new politics of environment, development and social justice’

One of our Lead Researchers, Dr Vishal Narain, participated in an international conference held by STEPS (Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability) Centre attached to Institute of Development Studies (IDS), University of Sussex, UK.

In a session titled, ‘Contesting sustainabilities in the periurban interface’, Dr Narain presented a paper on ‘Reframing the narrative: the land and water nexus in the periurban interface’.

Other papers presented in the session were:

1) Re-imagining Desakota through a ‘Toad’s eye science’ approach by Dipak Gyawali, Royal Nepal Academy of Science and Technology

2) Contesting sustainabilities in the peri-urban interface: the case of water in Ghaziabad by Lyla Mehta and Pritpal Randhawa

3) A periscope on the peri-urban by Adriana Allen, University College London (unable to present)

4) The Ghaziabad case study by Alankar, Sarai, Delhi

Dr Narain’s notes
The discussion focused on South Asian peri-urban issues. It was also a good opportunity to learn about the STEPS center peri-urban project that focused on what happened when villages in Ghaziabad were brought into the fold of municipal corporations. They have conceptualized peri-urban somewhat differently from us, looking at former villages now under the fold of urban authorities, the implications of this process for systems of water access and management, the lack of interest and focus among urban authorities, as well as the resulting marginalization and exclusion faced by peri-urban residents in terms of their access to water.

I used this opportunity to speak about our project with other researchers working on similar issues.   

5th International Conference on Public Policy and Management

One of our Lead Researchers, Dr Vishal Narain participated in the 5th International Conference on Public Policy and Management organized by the Center for Public Policy at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. He presented a paper titled ‘Urbanisation and the land-water nexus: changing water use and access in periurban Gurgaon, India’ in a session on water sector reforms. The participants varied from academics to researchers to civil servants.

Several issues emerged from the discussion following the presentation, most importantly:

1)      The large-scale acquisition of land as well as loss of water in peri-urban settlements has implications for food security
2)      It is important to explore local low-cost solutions for the use of sewage water in peri-urban agriculture

Dr Narain’s notes
 It was a good opportunity to share results from the field with  a diverse group of actors engaged with water issues from several perspectives. Notably, several alumni of IIM- B’s  public policy programme – most of them civil servants were present on the occasion and it was a good forum to talk about these issues to policy-makers.
 It was also an opportunity to network with other peri-urban researchers  who has earlier worked on periurban agriculture,  land acquisition issues,  health issues in semi-urban areas and  common property resources in periurban settlements.