The Hyderabad team of the Peri-urban Project organised a week-long series of stakeholders meetings, interactions, and awareness programmes across the field villages. Apart from the village locals - various other stakeholders like the sarpanch, director of water users association, water plant owners, farmers, representations from watershed committee, gated-community, self-help groups, village secretary, ward members, and activists were part of the meetings conducted in Aliabad, Ravirala, and Mallampet villages near Hyderabad. The prime objective of the meeting was to share findings from the scoping study to the community and hear their opinions regarding it. It also provided a good platform to understand perspectives and receive suggestions by varied stakeholders regarding possible interventions that could be undertaken in the village. Discussions on local capacity-building were understood and avenues for collaborating with relevant organizations explored.
Through these discussions, the villagers shared many issues and problems, especially related to the quality and availability of their water sources. Groundwater in few of the villages is unfit – not just for drinking, but also for agriculture purposes as it is highly polluted. Water channels that help in filling up of the nearby lake are encroached upon leading to the surface water bodies almost never filling up. Since water canals to the village bring water to the fields only when the lakes are full, the village cannot even rely on surface water for its agricultural needs. This is threatening the livelihoods of farmers to a large extent, who are usually forced to sell their lands to private developers which is far more profitable as these peri-urban areas are very sought after for real estate development. Apart from this, effluents from industries contribute to a lot of surface and ground water pollution. Rampant sand mining is also taking place in two villages which has affected the sub-surface water flow which is one of the reasons why the lakes are shrinking. Other problems emerge due to improper water management, lack of any village level functional committee looking at the problems, and ensuing local political dynamics and vested interests by the powerful.
However, the underlying point in every meeting was the fact that the villagers were very open to support and cooperate with the project team and ensure some concrete actions are taken to improve their present situation. Based on these discussions and suggestions, the team has charted out its future plan of action and interventions for each village so that there are some significant ways that the issues at the ground level are addressed.
The week concluded with awareness programmes that were organised in each of the villages in the form of street plays. Highlighting issues of urbanisation, water security, pollution, and implications due to the changing climate, the cultural group creatively explained these issues to large audiences in each village.