Monday, July 18, 2011

National Seminar on Design and Planning for Sustainable Habitat

Dr. Vishal Narain presented his paper 'Peri-urban water flows: implications for governance and urban planning" at the National Seminar on Design and Planning for Sustainable Habitat organized at India  Habitat Center, New Delhi on July 15 and 16, 2011. The seminar was attended by a mix of noted academics, representatives from the Government, architects, urban planners and designers. In his presentation, Dr. Narain spoke about how urban expansion processes were affecting the water access and security of periurban residents around Gurgaon. He emphasized that the dichotomous nature of urban planning and rural development led to the exclusion of periurban flows from the purview of planning. As cities expand, much more attention would be needed to the concerns of periurban locations. The distinction between rural and urban water supply would lose its significance and it would become increasingly necessary to recognize the flows of water between rural and urban areas and account for them better in planning for water resources. This stimulated some interesting discussion about the need to shift the unit of planning from rural/urban to a regional level.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

An account of experiences with government departments/officials in Gurgaon

An integral part of the project work has been constant visits to different government offices such as office of HUDA (Haryana Urban Development Authority), Irrigation Department, Agriculture Department, Public Health Engineering Department (PHED), office of local Block Development Officers etc. As a new visitor to these offices, one slowly gets to learn the precepts and work dynamics associated with them. Irrespective of all the offices visited so far, a common observation has been that of existence of ‘Hierarchy’. On one hand where the higher official will have an air-conditioned room to himself, a junior level officer, on the other hand, will have a common workplace. Another common phenomenon is the repeated number of visits made by junior officer to the office/room of senior official of his/her department. This seems like an everyday phenomenon! An important observation in these offices has been virtual non-existence of women, especially at the posts that require specialization in a particular field of engineering.

Howsoever banal these observations may sound; they do speak a lot about functioning of these offices in general and also about their work culture. The action/intervention part of the project requires closer association/interaction with these departments. The aforementioned observations simply add to and are part of interacting with them. Active participation of PHED officials in the Gurgaon Stakeholders’ and Capacity Building (CB) Workshop, are evidences of a fruitful association in the making. Recently, when the Gurgaon team approached a higher official from PHED for permission to film an interview with him, the permission was granted very easily. This again points out towards an increasing level of confidence and camaraderie that has been built up with the department. Experiences with other departments have also been good. When the irrigation department was approached with the issue of ‘flooded fields in Budheda’, the official agreed to share with us the data/maps on the reasons behind flooding of the fields. He also showed his willingness to do away with this issue before the next rainy season. Similarly, when a superintending engineer from HUDA was approached, he became very interested in the project conceptualization and approach. Although he could not attend the CB Workshop organized by the Gurgaon team due his busy schedule, he wanted a copy of the workshop proceedings to be handed over to him. This only shows willingness on the part of these government offices to share and contribute to the objectives of the project. Considering that this is an action research project, cooperation from government departments, harbingers well, not only for the project but also for the peri-urban communities.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Interaction Workshop

Nepal Engineering College, peri-urban water Security research project organized its last programme of the year with an interaction workshop in National Administrative Staff College, Jawalakhel on June 30, 2011. The interaction Workshop was designed specifically to share the research progress made till date with the local people thereby understanding the views of local stakeholders and simultaneously collecting their suggestions. The workshop provided a platform to further enhance coordination and collaboration among stakeholders, local government and community members from all the four selected research sites.
The workshop was attended by 20 participants from four sites including the VDC Secretary of the respective sites. After registration and breakfast, a full day workshop commenced with Prof. Shukla reflecting about the water resources of Nepal and changing status in water management strategies, practices and water rights with contextual examples from Kathmandu, Chennai and Delhi in India, Khulna in Bangladesh and his own experiences. He also took the participants through serious concerns on increasing population density and haphazard urbanization resulting pressure on the natural resources mostly land and water. Adding to the spark of the session, Prof. Shukla moved on to introduction round where individuals provided their introduction along with the connotation of the word making the day long interaction lively. 
The program was scheduled into three sessions. The first half of the workshop involved:
       I.            Dissemination of research findings from Nepal Engineering College
    II.            Knowledge and experience sharing from experts. 
The structure of the second half of workshop centered upon interactive group work. These activities were followed by a plenary session, in which site wise representatives presented their views and water concerns of the respective areas. This enabled the research team to learn more about the kind of work and focus of projects currently being carried out in Kathmandu.

Session I
       I.            Dissemination of research findings from Nepal Engineering College
This session included presentations from Mr. Rajesh Sada, Research co-ordinator where he discussed his study on "Processes and Consequences of Degradation of Urban River: Religious, Cultural and Livelihood Impacts". Sharing the perception of people on the increasing degradation of Hanumante river and its causes, changing uses of river water and impacts of water use on health, agriculture, religious activities and overall livelihood, he clearly emphasized the inalienable relationship of Hanumante river with the civilization of Bhaktapur district and its overall economic development. He also pointed out the river transformation into an easy sewerage has increasingly generated serious concerns among local people but still is unable to provoke the responsible authorities from the Municipality to act on it, rather are themselves among the ones to pollute it.
Commenting on the findings, Prof. Shukla suggested for self-brainstorm, whether polluting river in the context of changing livelihood is a need or compulsion.
Adding to Mr. Sada's points, Miss. Rabi Wenju also shared her study where she particularly emphasized how solid waste dumping along the river banks has resulted into river encroachment, its impacts on the livelihood of the river bank settlers and the increasing frequency of flash flood washing away not only the piled solid waste but also river incision resulting into catastrophic livelihood impacts.
The second presentation was by Mr. Ujwal Bhattarai, from nec-CPS, student of Interdisciplinary Water Resources Management, on "Household Drinking Water Handling Behaviour and its Microbial Contamination Possibilities" where he focused the diversity of role of water as synonym to life and how with careless household water handling behaviour can take away several lives. Based on his study in Dharan Municipality, Mr. Bhattarai highlighted the linkage of household water management from source to mouth and recommended some simple but essential and applicable ways of household water safety plans and behaviors to avoid the microbial water contamination and thereby preventing water borne diseases and the tragic losses.
This was followed by presentation from Mr. Dibesh Shrestha on Private tanker operation and market coverage in Kathmandu Valley. Through his thorough study, Mr. Shrestha pointed out the commercial water extraction points across Kathmandu and Lalitpur districts, its major consumers, supply processes and means and how the private water market has been growing as a result of growing gap in the water demand (320 MLD) and KUKL water supply (105 MLD in wet season to 75 MLD in dry season). Among several exclusive findings, he estimated that the economy behind commercial water market is 5.4 times bigger than that of KUKL, the main water supply authority for Kathmanduties.  
Among several impacts of unplanned rapid urbanization, growing slum areas is a growing problem. Mrs. Mela Aryal from ISET illustrated the water management practices among the squatters in the growing slum areas in Kathmandu valley and the ignorance of sanitation and personal hygiene and relationship with their livelihood based on her own study at Pragati Nagar, Manahara squatter in Bhaktapur.
Concluding first session, Prof. Shukla drew five water security issues linking to the discussions from the accomplished session.
1.      Quantity of Water Available; gap in demand and supply
2.      Equity in Water Distribution and water access
3.      Water quality concerns and source conservation
4.      Organizational water management and responsibility of local government
5.      Urbanization, Increasing water demands and commercialization of water 
Emphasizing the challenges and limitations of the local government in peri-urban areas to come forward with proactive environment management schemes as displacement of polluting industries from urban core to peri-urban areas, absence of clearance procedures for construction of new houses in VDCs leading to haphazard urbanization, rampant extraction of natural resources in these areas but limited power of the local authority to regulate, Prof. Shukla requested the stakeholders involved in the workshop to  provide feedback in relation to the progression of the project and suggestions for further points of consideration.
During the short discussion session on the completed presentations, Mr. Kiran, a participant from Jhaukhel, shared his observation and views of increasing population density and changing land use pattern as main culprit of natural resource degradation and emphasized that the tax collected by the Government Administrative authority should also be invested in protection of these resources and also expressed his serious concern on the rampant sand and ground water extraction in the concerned. His further query was to Mr. Ujwal about usability of water collected days before in areas with no regular daily basis of water supply.  Mr.Ujwal suggested on giving more preference to fresh water is better and clarified the main aim is to avoid water contamination therefore recommended to undertake water treatment prior to consumption.
In response to Prof. Shukla's point on “Water Pollution Today's Need or Compulsion", a participant from Lubhu shared the state of being no option for sewage release making it compulsory to ultimately release domestic sewage into available water bodies. As per him, the causes of increasing pollution of water bodies are weak administrative policies and regulations and lack of public awareness. He recommended the nec- research team to include public awareness campaigns along with the research study for effective outcomes of water security.
Mr. Indra Baral representing Matatirtha VDC shared his opinions on the significant role of water for Health and emphasized on the need of optimal use of water and applying the knowledge gained in the daily practices for successful benefit of the public awareness programmes. Pointing out the political stagnancy as a major constraint to the development and conservation activities, he also exchanged his views on the need of political willpower to solve the existing situation of unaccountability.

Session II
Knowledge and Experiences Sharing from Experts
In this session Mr. Anil Pokhrel from ADB presented "Water, Land and Food Security and Where are We?" Appreciating nec for conducting the collaborative environment where different groups of stakeholders communicate with researchers on climate information to implement research into local adaptation planning. He also emphasized how the interaction provided the opportunity for researchers to discuss recent findings and to identify significant gaps in knowledge. He reminded the fundamental message that emerged during the first agriculture conference in 1958 A.D (2015 B.S) and took the participants to understand how the situation is getting more terrible than predicted with changing climate, urbanization, growing food prices and distress migration. In his presentation, he introduced the participants to the existing and emerging climate change issues and associated problems, and laid out the potential approach for seeking sustainable solutions to the problems. Driven from data-based findings on climate uncertainty from Jhikhu River in Panchkhal, this presentation dealt with the trends of climate change with particular emphasis on water resources and the apparent impacts of changing climate in terms of increasing floods, droughts and their impacts on food, health and overall livelihood.
Post lunch, the session continued with presentation from Mrs. Mela Aryal Lama who gave the glimpse of key terminologies associated with climate change and a brief explanation on Green House Effect. She also discussed on the Gateway system adopted by ISET and elaborated works of ISET-Nepal on climate change. Introducing the various types of adaptation strategies, she explained adaptation is much more than coping with and surviving disasters. It involves at least the ability to maintain and preferably to improve quality of life, wellbeing and environmental sustainability. Following her was Ms. Rabi Wenju, where she incorporated shared learning dialogue and other methodologies applied by ISET-Nepal for its IDRC supported ongoing research on climate change and adaptation along Gandak transect, extending from Kapilvastu to Mustang.
Field knowledge from the research was shared by Mr. Madav Devkota where he highlighted the diversity in vulnerability from Kagbeni in Mustang, Ramche in Myagdi, Hansapur in Argakhachi and Dubiya in Kapilvastu. He highlighted the example of Madan Pokhara VDC as self-capable VDC and its adaptation strategy through rain water harvesting for both domestic and irrigation use.
Concluding the session Mr. Ajay Dixit briefed on the presentation of the former three presenters from ISET-Nepal linking their relevancy to the peri-urban context. He also described the need of Peri-urban Water Security Project that nec is launching currently on four peri-urban sites of Kathmandu valley to understand the dynamics of water security in the sites and to be able to well adapt the forthcoming precarious situation due to rampant urbanization and further accelerated by climate change.
To the query of a participant on the efforts made from national level on addressing climate change preparation, he briefly discussed on the ongoing activities like preparation of National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA), Local Adaptation Programme of Action (LAPA) and Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) policy and criticized the lack of national level homeworks for presenting the climate change impacts in Nepal to the international arena and pressurize the developed countries under the climate change related protocols. Mr. Rajesh Sada briefly informed about the carbon trading mechanisms existing at the international level, furthering explained the application of only CDM- Clean Development Mechanism in Nepal.
At the end of the session, Prof. Shukla elaborated on the inter-relation of climatic anomalies in different countries and how the effects are visible in our macro and micro level resulting into negating impacts on the fundamental needs of life, growing water and food insecurity.

Session III: Plenary Session
 The final open floor session was led by Prof. Shukla with the purpose of consolidating the views and feedback that from the stakeholders over the water issues in the sites under the five key topics:
1)      Availability of water
2)      Change in quantity and quality of water and its causes
3)      Local water concerns/ issues
4)      The way forwards

It was agreed that the concept of presenting the views by a representative from each of the four VDC and the other participants contributing to the first speakers on supplementing the missing points.  
The views and issues shared by the participants during the interaction workshop are summarized below:
Site 1: Jhaukhel
First speaker from Jhaukhel VDC was Mr. Jayram Thapa where he shared on the existing water management schemes in the VDC which brought forward over forty years old Jhaukhel-Changu- Duwakot water supply scheme as the major water supplier for the three VDC and sump well in Manahara river bank is the water source for the mentioned scheme. This scheme over declining water level in the source, as the system functions based on water lifting system is also effected by hours long power cut off. The declining water level is increasingly being the major concern as the demand for water is increasing regularly. Regarding the change in water supply, it has declined from 2 hours every morning and evening a day to irregularity to supply once in every three days. In contrast to the declining water level in the source, water demand is increasing to reach 1100 taps in three VDCs.
After his 16 years long involvement in Water user committee, he expressed his dissatisfaction towards delinquency among the responsible authorities and stressed the growing self-centered attitude among people as the reason behind growing rampant water and sand mining in the VDC. He shared his bitter experiences of VDC despite being local government as per local Self Government Act, 1999, with no support from the CDO and DDC has been not able to take any strict against the illegal sand and water extraction growing in the VDC. He stressed on the need of public awareness activities for proactive public participation in pressurizing the concerned authorities to bring the illegal natural resource extraction in the VDC under regulation and thus requested nec- research team to conduct the interaction workshops at local level in the VDC.
The other participants, Jaganath Neupane from Jhaukhel, expressed his views on the Melamchi Observation well in Duwakot Ward no. 4, where deep boring has been done under Melamchi project but not in use. He further added that they had even gone for delegation to the Melamchi authority for water supply but was denied initially and further processed it for pressurization through signature collection.
While the majorities of VDC residents are struggling for water management, the water market in the VDC is growing in ward 7 and 8. The participants also considered the need of using water from Mahadev khola, which currently is wasted. Regarding future adaptation strategy for water security, they unanimously presented the need of going into boring and distributing water through large reservoirs.

Site2: Dadhikot
In Dadhikot, drinking water supply has been successfully implemented through local initiatives and the participants were satisfied with water management in their VDC. Old Uttisghari,  Uttigghari Dadhikot, Syangtyang dhara and Mandhara are the major community water supply schemes in the VDC. Mahadev khola is the source of irrigation for the VDC. With increasing water demand, the VDC has started supplying water through combined use of surface water and ground water and has been working for adding a deep boring for community water supply while at the household level dug wells are also increasing in the VDC.
The participants in the VDC showed their concern about the lack of understanding about legal provision for water resource conservation and lack of access of local authority to such initiation. Having common water source with neighboring Balkot, Katunje and Gundu VDCs, the participants representing Dadhikot VDC also showed interest on understanding about the sharing of the water bodies existing at the VDC boundary. Like Jhaukhel VDC, the participants also requested for the interaction workshop at the VDC level to generate awareness among the community towards optimal water utilization, safe water handling and sanitation.
With proactive community for water management, Dadhikot has achieved success in water management. Appreciating Dadhikot's effort and successful implementation of graded tariff system, Prof. Shukla suggested Mr. Rajesh Sada, to arrange for an exploration field visit to Dadhikot, for the rest three VDCs. To this suggestion the participants invited for a day long field visit to their VDC for sharing knowledge and experience.

Site 3: Lubhu
Lubhu VDC is the driest of four VDCs. Participants from Lubhu recalled the arrangements made for drinking water supply in the VDC from Chapakharka in neighboring VDC back in 1979 (2036 B.S). With growing water demand and drying water source, water scarcity is still the main concern for Lubhu residents. Adding to their water owes, the changing value of water as social good to a commercial commodity, water from the neighboring VDC is increasing being less reliable. Irrigation in the VDC is entirely rainfed.  Dovan khola, the only reliable water source in the VDC is water source for quenching thirst of ward 4 and some parts of ward 2, 3 and 5. With no private taps, public taps based water supply in this VDC is regularly obstructed with landslides damaging water distribution pipes. Moreover, with piped water distribution system arranged over twenty years back, leakage of water and unaccountable loss is not less severe for this VDC. With clay as geological composition, digging private wells cannot be useful solution for the Lubhu residents. The participants also shared the lack of awareness and still existing caste discrimination as one of the cause of water pollution in the VDC. Addressing the query of Mr. Sada regarding their adaptation strategy during landslide at Chapakharka disrupting water supply, for them, they shared the only option left becomes to purchase water for household purpose. Expressing their helpless condition, one of the participants from Lubhu VDC said" We have planned for boring as ultimate option but we have not been able to move forward to performing it and nor do we have knowledge for any better alternatives."
Prof. Shukla suggested to practice rainwater harvesting as an alternative and as the training provided recently on RWH had overwhelming participation, he expressed his hope of the training to be useful in solving their water struggles.

Site 4: Matatirtha
Matatirtha is water rich VDC. Mr. Indra Baral, a participant clarified the common misunderstanding of the religious Matatirtha Shrine being located in Matatirtha VDC and further explained it to be located in the neighboring Mahadevsthan VDC. He shared that wards 4, 5, and 7 within the VDC are water rich. The major water sources, springs in the VDC lie in the lower lands while the traditional settlements are in the uphill. In one hand, wastage of surplus water and commercial water use is common in the water rich wards while in the wards lying uphill, managing water for daily use is not simple.
 Collaborative attempts have been made from community and local government initiatives for water management through lifting up of water into reservoir tanks (a total of 7 tanks are present in the VDC). After the land acquisition of Ward no.2 by Armed Police Force Academy, it started deep boring in its premises, after which deep boring also started for community water supply. Unlike Lubhu, water source is not a constraint for this VDC, the need is its sustainable management. He further stated rather than drying of water source, changing of lifestyle and increasing water consumption is the major water problem in the VDC.
Mrs. Merina Shrestha, member of women organization in the VDC focused on the hardship of women in the uphill wards in managing daily water even to current days when people in the same VDC are being economically benefited through water. She shared the efforts being made from women groups in environment and water bodies conservation and preventing direct discharge of sewerage into rivers.
The participants agreed about increasing debate regarding the water market in the VDC and explained about the initiatives being put forward by the local government however with political lacunae, the regulatory mechanisms has not been functioning as per its potentialities. With neighboring VDCs depending on water sources of Matatirtha for fulfilling their water needs, the water sources within the VDC has often been encroached by the neighboring VDC. In addition to this, the growing population, urbanization and changing lifestyle has resulted into changing landuse and pollution of water sources, thus conservation of sources is prime need for water security in the VDC.
Moving towards the end of the programme, Prof. Shukla, acknowledged all the participants and the presenters on the behalf of nec and requested for continuous co-operation for further two years and assured to provide full co-operation for public awareness programmes at VDC level and friendly networking for knowledge sharing among the four sites. Stating the interaction workshop as the beginning for future workshop, he hoped for their participation in the future interaction programmes to be scheduled in every three month.
Overall the workshop was a positive experience and provided a solid background from which the research team can further develop the effectiveness of forthcoming programmes. The contribution of these local participants was highly valuable, and the nec- research team received useful and insightful feedback on their work so far. Specifically, the interaction workshop formed fundamental part of work package, an enthusiasm and willingness for exchanging knowledge and experience by engaging the stakeholders from the four sites, so their involvement at the workshop has been a key contribution to the project as whole.

Training on Rain water Harvesting

Water Security in Peri-urban Areas, nec- Research Team organized two days training on rain water harvesting and its application in domestic uses in Lubhu VDC, a peri-urban site selected for pilot intervention. The training programme was organized at Balkhu, in nec-CPS premises. While organizing training, the focus was on including the participants from different age groups, occupation, ethnicity, gender involving both marginalized people as well as those with influencing capacity so as to make the training effective in contributing to help them face their water management challenges and disseminate the knowledge gained to increase awareness of the entire community on Rainwater Harvesting Techniques and applications. The programme was scheduled for two days on 18th and 19th June 2011.

Outsource facilitator was managed for the training from ENPHO (Environment and Public Health Organization) for effective conveying of the significance of Rain water harvesting and clarifying the doubts and misunderstanding about rain water harvesting from expert on rain water harvesting system. The team would like to acknowledge the NGOs- NGO Forum, Guthi, ENPHO, Sambridhi Colony and Shuvatara School for their help in conducting the training. As organizer, nec- team was involved in overall event management. With sharing of knowledge and experiences on the rain water harvesting practices made in Nepal and the neighboring countries, idea was to encourage participants to undertake this system as an alternative tool for solving booming water crisis in the VDC.

The welcome speech was delivered by Mr. Rajesh Sada, Research Co-ordinator He welcomed all the participants from Lubhu VDC participating in the Training Programme. In his speech, he briefly highlighted the need and significance of Rain Water Harvesting (RWH) and its economical use during dry season and encourage the participants to make the training more participatory and fruitful.

The Rain Water Harvesting training offered instructions on the concept and technology of rainwater harvesting for domestic use and how it fits into the overall picture of appropriate rural and urban water supply linking the relevancy to the context of the existing situation in Lubhu VDC. Topics addressed included water optimization, common rainwater harvesting systems in Nepal, selection of appropriate rainwater harvesting technology, storing methods, contaminants in RWH system, treatment, maintenance and cleaning supply and the basic construction, installation, operation and maintenance of roof top and surface catchments including exercise on calculating harvestable roof rain water. Focus was also placed on recent technologies and innovative techniques to fit them into current applications. The training sessions were interactive with sharing of established practices in the local context and interrogative with queries on the confusions, doubts and intricacies associated with rain water harvesting arrangements.

The training included teachings on the household water optimization alternatives, social, economic and environmental considerations regarding rain water harvesting practices. A proper understanding of these elements is essential for the correct application of household rainwater harvesting systems. The training also introduced the global impact of clean water, hygiene and sanitation and linkage of climate change and changing rainfall pattern on implementing rainwater harvesting as reliable alternative water.

As the brochures could be very good means of conveying message on techniques and uses of rain water harvesting, brochures published by NGOs working for rain water promotion in Nepal and other relevant reading materials on rain water harvesting were provided in the training. Demonstration of rain water harvesting technique was made during the training session to fill up the knowledge gaps and communicate the requirements for a successful rainwater harvesting.

Post training an evaluation session was conducted where in the Questions regarding effectiveness of the training in upgrading their knowledge in the subject matter and motivating the participants to utilize RWH in daily life were included. Five questions were included, each allocated a maximum of 5 marks and ranking was provided by the participants as per their satisfaction from the training. Simultaneously, recommendations for better management for future capacity building programmes were collected.

The evaluation is shown in the evaluation chart 1:

During the training, Prof. Shukla focused on rainwater (RW) harvesting through community participation for which he remarked that community participation can’t be ignored towards RWH and is always an integral part of it giving examples from the neighboring countries. In the meanwhile, Mrs. Anushiya Shrestha, Research Assistant shared her views on importance of rainwater harvesting in recent time and presented the glimpses of regeneration of Darewadi in Maharastra, India through rainwater harvesting. Field visits were conducted at the end of the training sessions for practical exposure on Rainwater Harvesting. There were two field visits, the first one was at Sambridhi Colony in Kirtipur to practically demonstrate rainwater harvesting at different households and the second field visit was at Shuvatara School in Lamatar VDC for understanding rainwater harvesting and storage components.

The training was appreciated by all the participants and some understandings shared during conversation in the post training lunch break were positive. Among the male and youths, there was interest in initiating activities oriented to constructing rain water harvesting ponds on community level and sharing the knowledge gained to gradually replicating the process in the entire VDC, while among the women groups integrating the simple household techniques of rain water collection to meet their daily domestic and farm needs was more appreciated.

In overall the training was carried out in a very organized manner. But the actual success can be celebrated only if post training utilization is practiced as absence of utilization of knowledge gained is lost, thereby defeating the very purpose of the training, thus nec- research team is in the state of wait and watch to celebrate the success Capacity Building Training on Rain Water Harvesting.

Questions for Evaluation
  1.     Has the training met your expectations on rain water harvesting techniques?
  2.     Has the training inspired you to install rain water harvesting system in your house?
  3.     How useful do you consider the presentations and reading materials provided in this training?
  4.     How do you consider about the facilitators effectiveness in communicating the message on Rain water harvesting?
  5.    In overall, do you feel the training useful?

·         Applying rain water harvesting in the campus premises
·         Providing training on Water quality and treatment techniques
·         Disseminate training in other water scarce areas

Figure 1: Evaluation Chart 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Workshop on ICTs, Climate Change and Water

Dr. Vishal Narain participated in an international workshop on ICTs, Climate Change and Water organized by the IDRC, Canada and APC, Alliance for Progressive Communications in Johannesburg from July 7 to 10, 2011. The workshop was attended by about 30 participants from around the world. The workshop sought to develop a research agenda around the theme of ICTs, Climate Change and Water. Several issues were discussed such as the role that ICTs can play in reducing vulnerability to the water related impacts of climate change, improving access to information, securing greater transparency and disaster risk reduction. The workshop was an interactive one and participants worked in smaller groups to develop research ideas and proposals that were subsequently presented in plenaries. Much attention was paid to the challenges that large cities were faced with in dealing with the water related impacts of climate change, and the stresses that urbanization created. 

6th International Conference on Interpretive Policy Analysis

Dr. Vishal Narain presented his paper “Narratives, discourses and power: the appropriation of land and water at the periphery of global cities” at the 6th International Conference on Interpretive Policy Analysis at Cardiff, .UK. from June 23 to 25, 2011. His paper was presented in the session “Whose city is it anyway? Planning, politics and exclusion at the periphery”.  Drawing on fieldwork in Budheda and Sadhrana villages in Gurgaon, in his paper he focused on how the so-called millennium cities expanded by engulfing the land and water resources of their peripheral villages and how certain narratives about the glory of millennium cities provided a justification for such expansion. These narratives in turn are located in neo-liberal discourses and discourses surrounding globalization, even as there is a debate among scholars of globalization and urbanization on the relative roles of local and global forces in shaping these processes. These ideas were echoed in another presentation by Timothy from the STEPS Center who focused on urban expansion on the other side of Delhi- into Ghaziabad. Discussions focused on how we need to frame counter- narratives and how new and alternative narratives about the pockets of deprivation engendered by these processes can inform urbanization policies that are more equitable.

Workshop on water justice issues in South Asia

Dr. Vishal Narain presented his paper “Whose land? Whose water? Water rights, access and justice in a periurban context” at a workshop on water justice issues in South Asia organized by Wageningen University, the Netherlands and SOPPECOM, Pune in Pune from April 18 to 22, 2011.  Drawing on his research in Budheda and Sadhraana villages, he drew attention to how current patterns of urbanization created patterns of water use and access that were inequitable. Drawing on his work in Sadhraana and Budheda villages, he explained how current urbanization processes take shape by drawing upon water and land resources from the peripheral villages. Most urban expansion takes place by acquiring land from the peripheral villages; since water rights are tied to land rights, acquisition of land implies loss of access to water sources as well. Besides, urban elite are able to move into the peripheral areas and extract water using expensive water extraction technologies not affordable by locals, because of which local residents are unable to access water. Thus, current policies for urban expansion and the current legal and institutional framework for groundwater access together conspire to create a pattern of water use that is inequitable.

Dr. Narain emphasized that since urbanization would be an important trend in South Asia in the years to come, and much of this growth takes place in periurban locations, water justice issues in periurban contexts constitute a ripe area for water justice research in the region. This theme was later indeed taken up – following subsequent discussions in the workshop – as a major theme for water justice research in South Asia – by the workshop organizers. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Capacity Building Workshop and Exposure Visit to Model Village, Hyderabad, June 21 -22, 2011

The first Capacity Building Workshop of the Hyderabad Project was organised on June 21st and 22nd, 2011. This workshop was targeted towards community and government officials working at the local level in the peri-urban field sites. The workshop was meant to understand issues from the implementation agencies and introduce them to ideas of citizen participation and building public-private partnership in accessing water services through talks, discussions and an exposure visit to Gangadevipally model village in Warangal, Andhra Pradesh. This provided an opportunity to interact and learn among members of the group regarding better governance practices and addressing issues of water management, tank restoration and village level development in favour of the vulnerable communities.

 A total of 22 government and community officials 
 attended the Capacity Building Workshop

 22 government and community officials from four villages and sub-districts of peri-urban Hyderabad participated in the two-day workshop conducted at Warangal. The visit to the model village was made on the first day and group discussions and shared learning on the second day. 

Gangadevipally village Sarpanch addressing the participants 
on how the village developed into a self-sufficient model village. 

Gangadevipally village: Gangadevipally is a village in Geesukonda Mandal in Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh and is 160 km far from Hyderabad. This village has been setting new trends by adopting innovative approaches in community development. Sarpanch Mr. Kusam Raja Mouli initiated the transformation of this village by banning the sale and consumption of alcohol first. Till the year 1993, this village faced severe water scarcity. Bala Vikasa Social Service Society, a Warangal-based NGO assisted in solving the drinking water problem here by uniting the community strongly who contributed their money, time and labour in completing the project which provided a permanent solution to their water needs. Villagers were formed into 18 groups and leaders were elected from each group and thus, a water committee was formed. Water projects have become an important source of income generation in this village. There are 22 committees in the village looking after education, health, farmers’ development, women’s issues, environment protection etc. Majority of the families participate and get an opportunity to lead some or the other committee and all the villagers abide by the decisions of the committee. This village has been adjudged the best mandal level and district level village more than once and has received the Bharatha Ratna Rajiv Gandhi best village award at the national level (in 2007). 40% of the current residents in the village have migrated here in the last 15 years due to improved facilities and opportunities.

Enthusiastic children at Gangadevipally. 100 percent children have access to education in this village.
Participants at Fort Warangal
 Day 2: Day two started with an early morning visit to the exquisite Fort Warangal – which was the capital of the Kakatiya dynasty. Post breakfast, Mr. R. Murali, Convenor of MARI, facilitated a discussion session. Ten guest village officials from another Anantaram village also participated in this session. Anantaram has been recently awarded the 'Model Village of India' title and is located in Jinnaram Mandal of Medak district of Andhra Pradesh. Along with eight women community leaders, the village Sarpanch introduced their village and various effective development measures undertaken.

After a rich round of discussion on various village related issues, Mr. Murali then facilitated the group to discuss factors that have led to the processes of change in the two model villages and the steps that need to be adopted to replicate this in other villages. It was understood that shared leadership and decentralisation of power is the most important factor. Apart from this, shared norms and consensus, facilitation and support from organisations especially NGOs, awareness about on-going village schemes, and coordination with the immediate line departments to facilitate this process were many of the factors identified by the group for the efficient functioning of the gram sabha. 

The workshop concluded with suggestions and experience sharing from each participant individually. Options for intervention in the peri-urban field villages and ways of actualizing them were discussed. The villagers suggested protecting the Shamirpet lake by installing a water purification plant, while the Ravirala village folk suggested having a tree plantation drive in order to recharge their very low water table. Village action plan for each of the 4 sites was discussed and formulated.

- by Vasundhara Dash