Monday, November 21, 2011

Altering Water Boundaries for ‘planned development’

Mallampet village in Qutubhullapur Block in Hyderabad is one of the most rapidly urbanizing villages in the city. A number of high-rise residential colonies have sprung up in the vicinity along with many industrial units around this village. As a result of widespread land development and commercial activities, the farmers and land owners of this village have particularly suffered as many culverts that supplied water are now broken and there is inadequate water supply for their fields. Also, a number of tanker operators are abstracting ground water from this village to sell it to the surrounding areas. This has made farming a less viable occupation, and farmers prefer selling off their lands or installing bore-wells in their fields for selling water as a more lucrative option. Another major setback has been the construction of the Outer Ring Road (ORR) through the outer boundary of the village. This road is actually cutting across a major water body called the ‘Khatwa tank’ which has been the source of livelihood for a number of fishers and source of water to the farms of many.  A large part of the water body has been encroached upon for this construction.

Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority or HMDA is the urban planning agency, and is responsible for the construction of the ORR. Formed in 2008 after merging erstwhile entities of Hyderabad Urban Development Authority (HUDA), Hyderabad Airport Development Authority (HADA), Cyberabad Development Authority (CDA) and Buddha Poornima Project Authority (BPPA), it covers the entire area of Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation and its suburbs. It coordinates the development activities of the municipal corporations, municipalities and other local authorities, the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply & Sewerage Board, the Andhra Pradesh Transmission Corporation, the Andhra Pradesh Industrial Infrastructure Corporation, the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation, and other such bodies.
According to the map of the master plan 2021 (, the road is not supposed to cut across the tank but on ground, the situation is far from the proposed version. Enquiring more on this dichotomy and finding out the department responsible for the situation is what brought us to the HMDA office.

After moving from one table to another and unable to locate even one contact person to be able to speak to, finally we were directed towards the Planning Office. Moving through labyrinthine corridors and passing one department after the other, we reached the concerned office. A senior official heard our case patiently, and then explained how the HMDA is responsible for executing the master plan and building the physical infrastructure. “We are not looking at the protection of lakes or providing water to the communities, that is looked after by the lakes department”, he said. The construction of the ORR is as per the master plan and our job is to stick to it. The HMDA has no role with any village development activity”, he added. We also got to know that a minimum buffer zone of 10m is supposed to be kept around the lake, which has been clearly violated in Mallampet’s case.

Our next meeting was at the Lakes Division where we spoke to an Executive Engineer. An enthusiastic official – he narrated how the department was involved in lake protection and development projects. Hyderabad is a city with currently about 400 small and large lakes or tanks and managing each and every water body is not an easy task for the authorities. The HMDA is increasingly encouraging the corporate sector to adopt and take responsibility of a lake and help them in their endeavour. Waterfronts of a few lakes in Hyderabad have been developed with walkways and landscaping. There is also a Lake Development Authority (LDA) which is an autonomous and regulatory body formed to take remedial measures and to restore and revitalize the dying lakes. Regarding, the ORR, the official only had one question to ask, “How can the ORR pass through the lake?”

We met another senior official of the Buddha Purnima Project Authority (BPPA) next. This authority is responsible for the protection and development of Husain Sagar Lake and its environs in 902 ha. He started explaining how the encroachment process by the land mafia works – the recharge points of the lake are blocked first. When the water channels are blocked, the lake automatically dries up and gradually becomes a dumping ground. It is encroached upon later by informal settlements and ultimately the land is sold off to a private developer.

But the case of the government being involved in encroaching upon a lake came as a big surprise and he out-rightly denied any information on the situation in Mallampet. However, he also asked us to give evidence on this situation based on which they can take the issue forward. “We need the wisdom of NGOs to work accordingly”, he remarked.

There are various wings and departments under the urban authority in charge of the ‘planned development’ of the Hyderabad metropolitan region. But one can easily gauge the exclusivity in the functioning of these departments where information with one department is limited within its own making the authorities unaware of the ground situation as well as of the overlapping issues and facts. As much as the NGOs have to work closely with the governments on cross-cutting issues, the government departments must also make efforts to be in sync with one another especially those dealing with the same issue. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Some More Insights from Field

Having started from August for the household questionnaire, its November with the household questionnaire survey going on. It’s yet to enter into analysis part of the findings. However with regular visits to Matatirtha some impression on the general perception of the local people regarding dynamism of water management under the pressure of urbanization and climate change has been gathered which definitely need further evaluation.

In Matatirtha, people are more satisfied with the current water service that has been available at the household level. This beautiful place had historically been and still is water supplier for urban dwellers and the neighboring water deficit VDCs. However, the situation of the people living in uphill side of this sloping land was that people had to walk downhill to fetch themselves with gagris (mostly used traditional water carrying pot) of water in doko (traditional basket) and now with several community initiated water management schemes working in the area, people have easy availability of water and it is more in a stage of development regarding its water management issue. However the booming problem of this area is growing water entrepreneurs which has been tried by VDC to regulate but not yet achieved desired target.  In one hand, this has been a growing concern of water experts, while on the other majorities of the surveyed local people and local livelihood have rarely been stressed. Even the local government with lots of power play involved, has not been able to enforce strict action concerning the regulatory part. Interestingly,  there has been growing a silent  acceptance that water facilities for local is going to be difficult in not so far future as indicated by connecting their households with private taps despite easy access of public taps. Similarly having connection to multiple taps from different community initiated water schemes for future water security and growing numbers of private wells seems relevant preparations. The changing water management practices at the household level is depicted through growing water storing practices for which plastic tanks have been most preferred. Does it reflect the changing livelihood which has altered their water management practice?

Household water management responsibility has been quite well shared among male and female members in most of the surveyed households which as per the elderly women complains used to be a real hardship for them. This could be because of increasing women working in the economic sectors, at the same time technological innovations for piped water service that has elicited this transformation. Unlike general expectation of male members involving in irrigation water management, the field practice was different. In the recent years, male members have been mostly involved in off-farm activities. In many cases, male members are unaware about the existing productive stage of their farms and hence, it is mostly the female members that address the questions.

Elderly people share the changing rainfall pattern and consequently declining water yield at the source. But due to good rain this year, it has been considerably improved. Most people shared their views regarding changing climate and declining water at the source though water services at the household level has improved. Though the rivers in Matatirtha are only seasonal but the discharge as per them has been consistently decreasing. The yield in the river used to be sufficient to run mills which now rarely exists for a week after rain is what they comment. Could it be due to increasing impermeable surface thereby reducing the time of concentration and causing peak run off to pass within short period after rain is what has been a question to be thought about.

Farm lands are declining with majorities of irrigated fields already transformed into land plots for new houses. Regarding switching from water demanding crops towards commercial farming, besides the climate conundrum, also the impact of urbanization resulting in the selling away of cultivable land and shading effect that have been additional concerns.  

Increasing constructions on the farmlands is a common site and "Khetala kasto mahango cha, logne manche lai ek din ko nai 500/- parcha, aimai lai 300/- tai pani khetala nai paidaina", a regular statement. This means the local labor working on farm have been demanding high wage but still its very difficult to get them. This could probably be due to increasing transportation facilities in this peri-urban land which in the past was limited within small periphery, with more easy access to outskirts has provided opportunities to expand the working areas resulting deviation away from agriculture towards more paid labor activities.

While household surveys are on the peak at the fields, peri-urban team at nec has also been joined by our new intern Lieke Melsen from Wageningen University. We welcome her and look forward to work together.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

PRA activities in Sultanpur and Jhanjhrola Khera by TERI University students


On 20th and 21st October, seventeen Master’s student from TERI University visited the research sites in Gurgaon. They are enrolled in the M.A. Sustainable Development Practice programme. The objective of the visit was to help them understand how PRAs are used to understand rural life. On 20th October the students visited Sultanpur village, followed by a visit to Jhanjhrola Khera on the next day. It was a diverse group of students, coming not just from different states in India, but also from different countries. A brief note of activities undertaken by students in both the villages is mentioned below.


The students arrived in Sultanpur at about 10 AM. A walk to the village Sarpanch’s meeting room, called ‘Baithak’ in local parlance, was sufficient to draw villager’s attention towards students. Once everyone was seated in the ‘Baithak’, Dr. Vishal Narain briefed the village head and other villagers about why the students had come to the village. This was followed by a quick round of introduction by TERI students as well as the villagers. After this, the group moved to ‘Dharamshala’ to carry out the PRA activities. All the activities were done with active participation of the village people. One of the first activities was making of the village map. 

This turned out to be very interesting for villagers, as they were introduced to such activities for the first time. Many a times, suggestions made by one villager would get contradicted by a fellow villager, especially while delineating specific locations of certain places in the village! But eventually a consensus would be reached and the activity would go on. The combined effort of villagers and students paid off, as the colourful markings on the map made the village look beautiful even on a piece of paper! After this, students formed two to three groups and sat down with group of villagers to carry out other PRA activities like Trend lines, Wealth ranking, Seasonality analysis etc. A map outlining the distribution of supplied water pipelines was also made. This was followed by a transect walk across the village. An integral part of PRAs is sharing the knowledge back with the village communities. This was done in the second half of the day, wherein, the village head and other Panchayat and village members were invited. 


All the drawn maps were shown to them and asked for their views and comments. This was the time when some corrections were done to maps based on a mutual consensus among participants. The visit concluded with a final vote of thanks by the students.

Jhanjhrola Khera (JK)

The students arrived in JK at about 9:45 AM. Like Sultanpur, to begin with, a small meeting with villagers and the Sarpanch was held in his house. A quick round of briefing about the activity was followed by a session of mutual introduction. This was followed by some light snacks and tea. After this, a decision was to be made about the location where the activities would be carried out. Dr. Narain aptly suggested it to be the village temple premise. This turned out to be one of the highlights of the PRA activity in JK. Apart from the scenic beauty, the temple premise provided students with a larger space for innovation (as the village map was made on ground) and also for participation by the villagers, as it was a location frequently accessed by them.


Lots of innovation and imagination was employed in making the village map. For example, pebbles were used to highlight sections in the village that are at higher elevation and thus face difficulty in accessing water. Like Sultanpur, this was followed by doing other PRA activities. Students also walked across sections of village. In JK, students were also able to speak to women folk. This was done separately, with a group of 4 to 5 students speaking to a woman in her house. The questions put forth to them were not limited to water, but also about their daily activities, education level of children (especially female children), etc. The women folk targeted were a mix of women from high as well as low castes. 


The post lunch session was about sharing with villagers what was learnt from them. This session saw participation of many villagers, including women and kids. It was nice to see some school kids also making their own point about village and other maps. Although women could not be part of the PRA activity in the beginning, women who came to the temple for fetching water, got curious about the ongoing activity and decided to join. They did not hold themselves from putting forth their points!


This was a session where corrections, as and when required, were done. Also, any other important points mentioned by villagers were noted down. The day concluded with heartfelt thanks to the villagers for their participation. Overall, the second and final day of the PRA activity, turned out to be more vibrant, participatory and colourful! 

Training Programme on Fundamentals of Livelihood Promotion

BASIX - The Livelihood School, conducted a training programme on ‘Fundamentals of livelihood promotion - Integrated module on identification, designing and management of livelihood interventions’ from 26th-30th September 2011 at the Disaster Management Institute, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. Mr. P. Rajkumar, Research Assistant – Hyderabad Team, attended the programme from SaciWATERs.

Topics like livelihood promotions, fundamentals, identifications, designing and management of livelihood interventions, marketing plans, managing production and productivity, monitoring and evaluation were mainly discussed by the resources persons. The programme was planned in an interactive manner and informative resource books were provided.

Apart from the training, a local market survey was also organised which helped us understand the position of market, opportunities and needs of the people in the market. Account maintenance was also covered in detail with focus on the income and expenditure statements, balance sheets etc.

The ‘Human Resources in Livelihood Intervention’ session included the basics of HR, managing and developing HR, importance of recruitment of staff, staff induction, roles and responsibilities, reviews, appraisals etc. Apart from this we also learnt how to improve the skills for livelihood practitioners, co ordination within the working teams, working in partnership, building the capacity among the rural people etc.

The success of any project is based on a good monitoring and evaluation system. This helps an activity or project to be organised and also allows to measure the effective work done and extracting the exact results. We were taught on how a monitoring plan helps in improving efficiency, systematic analysis, and proper usage of resources. 

by P. Rajkumar