Monday, February 28, 2011

Local Stakeholders Meeting - Nepal

A Local Stakeholders Meeting was organized at Lubhu VDC office on 23-02-2011 (Falgun 11, 2067), Wednesday. The programme started formally at nearly the pre-scheduled time in the morning at 8:00 am with the participation of 14 local key functionaries involving participants representing local NGOs, local intellectuals, water users association, social workers and women groups. It started with a succinct introduction about the project, its objectives and outcomes of the scoping phase by the research coordinator Mr. Rajesh Sada and a brief introduction from each of the participants.
He formally requested the research team leader Prof. Ashutosh Shukla to throw light on the details of the research project, who further clarified on the genesis of the research, the objectives, partner institutes and funding organization including research methodology. Committing on towards achieving targeted goals, he also proposed constituting an instrumental participatory committee involving local stakeholders and the nec research team which will be responsible for the dissemination of the information and findings of the research at the local level and as well as perform the role of local advisory committee.
In second session, the floor was opened to the participants for sharing their views on water security in the area, expectations from the project and suggestions for the smooth operation of the project. This brought forward the transforming situations of the VDC and its impact on water resources including the initiations made from the local level and the obstacles perceived for the water management in the VDC.
Realizing the water crisis scenario in the VDC, an action research as the one undergoing has been a need for this VDC and the participants have enthusiastically committed a constant support for the smooth operation of the research. However, the major local concern has been on the research not to be limited merely on a study and producing a report but also on the certainty of the implementation part for sustainable water management in the VDC. The major expectations of the participants noted from this meeting are listed below:
Ø  Initiative for control of water source pollution,
Ø  Identification and management of alternative water sources,
Ø  Study on the impact of existing pit latrine on surface as well as groundwater quality,
Ø  Study on the possibility of rainwater harvesting and artificial recharge,
Ø  Identification of the feasible water supply schemes and programme based tentative cost estimation for possible proposal submission from VDC level,
Ø  Report submission for archive maintenance at VDC,
Ø  Assistance and support in Filtration Tank and Reservoir Installation,
Ø  Formal signature in Letter of Intent among Local Stakeholders Committee and nec.
 The discussions during the meeting session led to an agreement of constructing of mutually responsible and committed committee during the meeting, scheduled on 28 Feb. 2011 at 7: 30 am and proceed forward. 

On the process of organizing stakeholders meeting at the selected research sites, a local stakeholders meeting was also held at Matatirtha VDC on 25th February, 2011. The design of this meeting was similar to the meeting at Lubhu VDC.
The meeting was held in the hall of the Matatirtha VDC office in the participation of 19 participants representing youth clubs, Aama samuha (mother groups), women groups, social workers, VDC officials and key functionaries working for water management within VDC. Despite a pre-notice circulated by the VDC office, the participation was quite limited in terms of intellectual participation. However the major plus point of the meeting was a representation from female groups brought forward an existing situation of water management within VDC at the household levels and also the representation from different wards and the views put forward revealed the existing competition and poor inter ward coordination  in water management.
Followed by the information dissemination on the research project and the bases for selecting Matatirtha VDC as site by the research coordinator Mr. Rajesh Sada and the team leader Prof. Ashutosh Shukla, the local representatives from varied sectors committed their help and support in the coming days.
The ex-chair person, Mr. Dharma Raj K. showed his short presence and shared his expectation regarding technical help from Nepal Engineering College in extending road network within VDC and a study on feasibility of proposed Integrated Water Supply Scheme. The interest of different communities within VDC has been quite diverse causing complication in identifying a more general action point in the VDC. In the meantime, Prof Shukla highlighted on the intervening points to be conducted in the VDC will be focused on the  quantification of the surface and ground water availability, including analysis of the water quality and committed the possible technical help to the VDC from nec family. He also informed about the ongoing research activities on collecting the thirty year long meteorological data from various meteorological stations within Kathmandu valley and analyzing the climatic data to study the congruency between locally perceived climate change/ variability and the scientific database.
The VDC secretary, Mr. Lomas Acharya suggested nominating a focal research person to co-ordinate research at the local level and networking between the research team and the local community. Unlike Lubhu, participants mentioned that it is not worthy to constitute a committee as one will not attend the meeting if there is the presence of another with different conflicting views. Due to this conflicting views of different people on politics, economics or water market in the VDC, its great challenge for the research team to conduct participatory research method. This meeting however provided a glimpse of unannounced active political interest among the people therefore alerting research team about the possible hurdles during research phase will be requiring some innovative efforts in networking and bringing different classes the concerned mass into same arena.

Authors: Rajesh Sada, Anushiya Shrestha 

Understanding people’s perception of issues in Peri-urban villages of Gurgaon

The Gurgaon research team has been conducting regular field visits to the selected research sites viz. Sadhraana, Budheda, Sultanpur and Jhanjhrola Khera. These visits bring out new and interesting insights from the field. One very interesting and challenging aspect has been to understand how people perceive and understand a changing climate, falling water table, source of their daily water supply, etc. Response to questions on changing climate continues to vary depending upon an individual’s understanding. There are many who promptly speak about increasing pollution, global warming and greenhouse gases! They also speak about how afforestation can help in increasing rainfall and checking pollution level. Their general responses are – less rainfall, longer summers, shorter winters etc. The discussion becomes even more interesting when they are asked about the kind of impact this changing climate has on their lives, crops etc. People then speak about the times when a pot of water left out in the open would get frozen by the morning because of cold. This however does not happen now because winter has reduced both in duration and intensity. Winter season during this year, as per them, was confined to a period of one month; from 15th December to 15th January. People also speak about increased "khushki" (dryness) over the years. A recent interview revealed that increased "khushki" would mean more termites which in turn harms the crops. People also speak about how reduction in rainfall, barring the rainfall in 2010, has impeded them from growing crops such as Paddy and Sugarcane.

People also provide very interesting response when asked about the source of their water supply. For example, in Jhanjhrola Khera when people were asked about it, they simply mentioned name of another village (Iqbalpur) as their source of water! When they were further asked if HUDA (Haryana Urban Development Authority) provides them the water supply, they confused HUDA with ‘Bhupinder Singh Hooda’ – the current Chief Minister of Haryana. Their next remark was that they got water when ‘Om Prakash Chautala’ was the Chief Minister! The fluctuating water table also provides interesting responses from people. For them a reduction in water table reflects in the form of need to bore deeper in the ground or to install submersibles to be able to draw water. Opposite to this, relatively better rainfall in the year 2010, forced few tubewells to shut down. When people are asked to predict the level of groundwater, the figures mentioned by them varies a lot. For example, in Jhanjhrola Khera, people predict the water table to be at about 40 feet whereas few others predict it at about 100 feet. People also have interesting remarks about the crop production. Although they have seen an increase in productivity but they believe that the use of artificial fertilizers has also made their grains ‘weak’. When asked about what exactly ‘weakness of grain’ means they say that the food products made from these grains no longer have the same nutritional value as they used to have when produced using natural fertilizers.

Howsoever amusing these insights from people may sound, they are going to be pivotal during the course of the research. It is on these insights that one needs to work on, to be able to unravel the mysteries of water issues in the peri-urban villages. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Field visit to Matatirtha VDC

Nec peri-urban research team has been actively involved in the regular field works and preparing for stakeholders meeting to be organized in near future. One of the research sites in Kathmandu, Matatirtha VDC has been working on its updated VDC profile but with diverse official priorities and multiple local governance activities, but is still under meticulous analysis and will be taking some more time before being formally published. In the mean time, the field visit has brought forward the subtle facts about existing scenario.

Ignorance or disinterest regarding water market:

Growing water market in the VDC has been a hot potato for the entire valley and a growing concern for the national and international water professionals while it has not yet been able to drag the interest of local communities, mainly the women of middle age. They are occupied with the daily homestead; there is barely any concern about the water resource extraction and the vast economy and possible power play behind the scene. The women of quite well to do families have been diverting water from the natural spring sources by constructing a basic intake like structure and laying pipes to fetch themselves water till their home. This has been more than a decade back, with no need of corporal complexities such as registration in the VDC, has been an easy process and flashback to their daily routine. With no need to make a payment for the water use in such community or locally extended water diversion system, water accessibility to considerable households has been not much impacted by the changing social dynamism and with adequate water availability till date could justify the reason behind their disinterest toward increasingly massive water extraction.
Vulnerable do exist, vulnerability matters
Bindu K.C, a local resident of Matatirtha VDC, ward number 1 is a mother of four children. Married for over three and half decades, after the passing away of her husband, she has been raising the children all alone. This period has not been quite easy for this single mother and she has not yet been able to afford to extend the pipe water distribution to her house and depends upon the traditional stone spout for her daily water needs. The water access has been quite difficult compared to those days more a decade back when a stone spout was located nearby her house. Having no clear idea behind the causes, according to her, urbanization and the increasing concrete structures and the rampant boring and growing dug wells could be culprits causing the permanent loss of her water source, the stone spout nearby her house. Moreover, she complained about the decreasing yield of the existing stone spout and a bitter truth about complete drying of the stone spout in the recent consecutive three years during the month, Chaitra (March- April). This she thinks is due to the rainfall variability which has been more prominent in the recent years. During the drying of her water source, she fulfills her water needs from the neighboring houses which have been quite generous to her, but the problem is; the neighbors themselves also face problem due to limited water supply.
“Till these long years, I had never known of the complete drying of this stone spout but it dried completely in the last three years during the month Falgun- Chaitra (March- April). Also the water yield has been decreasing in the recent years and I need to wait for longer time to fill my bucket. This year there has been good rain so I hope this year this tap won’t dry.”
Is she the only case of victim of water related grief or a growing indication?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Workshop on ‘Cities, Environment and Social Justice’

The workshop on ‘Cities, Environment and Social Justice’ was organised jointly by Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) and Institute of Development Studies (IDS) from 2nd to 4th February 2011. It was held at India International Centre in Delhi. Two of our team members, Dr. Vishal Narain and Mr. Pranay Ranjan participated in the workshop.

This workshop marked the final event under the project, ‘The Peri-Urban Interface and Sustainability of South Asian Cities’ headed by STEPS Centre in collaboration with SARAI and Centre for Study of Regional Development. However, the workshop had much more to it than simply discuss about the project. In fact, there was only one session out of a total seven, devoted solely to peri-urban dynamics. Some of the speakers in the workshop were – Mr. Aromar Revi from Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Marie Helen from Centre de Sciences Humaines, Alankar from Sarai programme of CSDS, Kaveri Gill from IDRC and Tim Karpouzoglou from STEPS Centre. 

The presentations and ensuing discussions during the workshop very much revolved around growing cities and resulting issues, from different perspectives viz. waste generation, water pollution, climate change etc. The peri-urban perspective was highlighted by Alankar and Tim in their respective presentations. On one hand where Alankar focussed on understanding water pollution in the peri-urban region, Tim on the other hand presented a critical perspective of policy processes for monitoring water quality in peri-urban environments. Both the works derived from fieldwork in the Trans Hindon area of Ghaziabad, with focus on villages of Karhera and Arthala.

Alankar mentioned how Ghaziabad’s master plan, in reality, supplements the Delhi master plan. As a result of this, the aforementioned villages are no more called village but slums because they are now designated as urban area. Despite the change in nomenclature, the area never witnessed a change in infrastructure, especially concerning the vulnerable poor population. Whatever infrastructure was built for the supply of municipal water supply in early 1990’s, went in favour of upper caste people, leaving the lower caste vulnerable. This has continued to be the story of this region, even though currently it is designated as ‘urban’. On one hand where elite classes receive supply water from Ganga, poor and vulnerable populations have become increasingly dependent on groundwater. Alankar also went on to add how water needs in this region are conditioned by socio-economic conditions and demands. An interesting point mentioned during the presentation was to do with reversal of ‘Polluter Pays Principle’ in this region. Since the elite class has better access to water, they use it and in turn pollute it more. Poor on the other hand have limited access to good quality water and thus end up paying more in terms of expenses on health and also loss of opportunity. Among many suggestions/recommendations made during the presentation, one was to enable democratization of water issues in peri-urban regions. Tim spoke about the gap that remains in monitoring water quality because of difference in how government and individuals perceive it. The gap arises mainly because government’s definition of water quality is in terms of/based upon figures and data, whereas individuals perceive it more in terms of how they experience and understand it. Since policies are formulated based on perception of government, this gap continues to exist.  

As a value addition to our work, the workshop provided a very good platform for sharing the conceptualization and progress of our project with participants of the workshop. Some of the issues such as caste and socio-economic conditions determining access to water, need of democratization of water issues etc. are very relevant to our research sites as well. The workshop also provided an opportunity to meet and interact with people from different backgrounds and areas of expertise. It also provided an insight into recent works that have been carried out in the major urban centres across India.