CSE workshop shines spotlight on ‘capacity-building’ for water conservation needs

The current urban water management paradigm has legal and institutional gaps and disregards the natural environment

By Shivali Jainer, Shivani
Published: Wednesday 19 August 2020

Water is a crucial asset for the world’s developing urban areas. Commercial, residential and industrial users already place considerable demands on this resource — which often requires treatment, may be located at great distance from the city and is almost always in demand by multiple sectors.

The current urban water management paradigm has its difficulties — it has legal and institutional gaps; it is energy- and capital-intensive; creates and maintains a wealth disparity; and often disregards the natural environment.

It’s evident that there’s no single, simple solution to solve the dynamic aspects of urban water management.

There is, therefore, a high demand of knowledge for innovative water conservation and management solutions. Working professionals — both state and non-state actors — require basic understanding on technical know-how for effective and efficient implementation with desired output in terms of sustainable water management.

‘Capacity-building’, therefore, needs to be institutionalised for long-term gains.

The School of Water and Waste (SW&W) is one such initiative of capacity-building under Delhi-based think tank, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). The School aims to disseminate policy principles, innovative technologies and implementation of strategies for city-wide water and sanitation management.

The School organises various short-term residential trainings (including online trainings / webinars), workshops, knowledge conclaves and field exposure visits for working professional on themes such as Water Sensitive Urban Design and Planning (WSUDP) and urban lake management plan.

Over the last two years, SW&W has trained 571 professionals through 18 training programmes on the mentioned themes, of which 25 per cent participants were government officials and a healthy 43:57 female-to-male was maintained.

To measure the effectiveness of these trainings and improve the quality of future ones, SW&W conducted a two-day online ‘Impact Workshop cum Master Class’ on 29 June, 2020.

All alumni participants were contacted and invited to share their stories about the progress on individual / institutional action plan.

The online workshop was part of series of its measures used for evaluation and assessments as core strategy to achieve higher outcomes of the capacity-building interventions to build community of practitioners. 

During a training programme at Anil Agarwal Environment Training Institute (AAETI)

The online workshop was divided into two themes — Water (Part A) and Waste (Part B). Each workshop session included 8-10 presentations of stories and focussed on how the enhanced knowledge and skills during training have been used to plan / design, implement case studies / project, policy reform or other enabling frameworks, guidelines / advisory etc.

A total of 13 individual alumni consultants showcased how they used the knowledge from the training programmes in implementing their action plans under the water theme. They included:

  • Consultants from IDGC India Pvt Ltd, Delhi
  • Researchers from Guthi (Nepal), Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (Bengaluru)
  • Academicians from School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi
  • Non-profits such as WaterAid Bangladesh, Lanka Rain Water Harvesting Forum, Water Research Commission, Tarun Bharat Sangh, CDD Society
  • Government officials from Swachh Bharat Mission Directorate, Government of Uttar Pradesh and East Kolkata Wetlands Management Authority
  • More than 130 alumni attended the workshop

Interesting stories were presented by the selective participants as part of three sessions:

  • Water Sensitive Urban Design and Planning (WSUDP) (rainwater harvesting, stormwater harvesting techniques in parks and open spaces, greywater use, and water demand-supply management)
  • Water and Communication (Information, Education and Communication; public awareness using modern tools like video clips, social media outreach; and documentation of case studies)
  • Urban Lake and Wetland Management

Need for capacity building

Cities in India and South Asia suffer from water management-related issues. Rapid and unregulated growth of cities and towns is one of the major reasons for unsustainable water management.

On one hand, changing climate is making our cities more prone to extreme rain events and floods and on the other, it is aggravating water scarcity and pollution. Lack of access to clean and safe water is a major challenge in fighting against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Recent extreme climate events in Indian states of Bihar, Assam and Uttar Pradesh have been devastating and affected millions of people.

Almost every Indian city faces the issue of urban flooding every year. Many other water sources are getting increasingly contaminated, leading to a rise in water-related illnesses and deaths.

The World Bank estimated that over 21 per cent of the country’s communicable diseases are water-related. Ground water, lakes and rivers in our country are extensively exploited (a study showed ground water sources 48 per cent of urban water supply in India) and yet, no city has adequate water supply.

Water bodies such as lakes, ponds, tanks and wetlands are an essential part of the hydrological cycle and have an important role in urban scenario as a source of water supply, controlling run-off and groundwater recharge, yet many of them are now lost in numbers and surface area or heavily encroached and polluted as untreated wastewater is directly discharged into these water bodies.

In an effort to reform India’s water management institutions and practices, the Union government adopted water management as a major priority and created a new integrated water ministry and raised other initiatives to such as Jal Shakti Abhiyan, Jal Jeevan Mission and Atal Bhujan Yojana.

Capacity-building training can help local officials adopt and respond to new policies by providing them with the knowledge and confidence about the subject.

This is an introductory blog on CSE’s alumni impact workshop and will be followed by a series of testimonials 

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