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A Case Study of Bengaluru

Transition Theory and India’s Groundwater Management Systems

Contemporary India is witnessing rapid urbanisation, and groundwater resources have been overexploited almost to the point of depletion. In addition to urbanisation, the changing trends in agriculture also put additional pressure on groundwater resources. While the model groundwater bill has undergone several iterations to address the issue, a critical look at the work of some non-governmental organisations and a case study of Bengaluru through the lens of transition theory help shed light on community-driven, participatory groundwater management approaches.

India’s water problems in the not-so-distant future will have two main drivers—(i) the rapid pace of urbanisation, which will lead to at least 50% of the country’s population living in cities by 2030 (Hindu 2017), and (ii) the pervasive dependence on groundwater for practically all aspects of water usage (Bhanja et al 2017). A question that arises is: How would dependence on groundwater in an urbanised environment be a driver of water problems? This is crucial because groundwater does not feature in urban planning in India. In “Urban Water Systems in India: A Way Forward,” Mihir Shah (2014) lists the following reasons for groundwater being a “blind spot” in ­urban water management issues.

(i) Most urban utilities are not able to acknowledge the private extraction of groundwater in towns and cities. (ii) Water demand and supply in large cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, etc, is very difficult to track, owing to the “fuzziness” of administrative boundaries between the various sub-sectors of the civic bodies—the old city, the suburban sections, peri-urban areas and the surrounding rural fringes. (iii) Household surveys cannot capture the granularity of the data of individual household groundwater requirements, for it is often seen that the supply of water to the household is often greater than that provided by formal systems. (iv) When small towns grow into big cities, this transition phase is accompanied by groundwater pumped privately or through tank water supply from wells in the nearby rural areas. (v) Urban growth requires construction of housing complexes, which almost exclusively rely on groundwater resources.

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Updated On : 5th Oct, 2020

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