Expert consultation meeting on Arkavathy basin

As part of the ACCUWa (Adapting to Climate Change in Urbanizing Watersheds) project of the Land Water Livelihoods programme, an expert consultation meeting was held at ATREE on November 7, 2012. The meeting included scientists, representatives of government agencies and civil society activists working on water resource management issues in the Arkavathy basin.

The objective of the meeting was to establish a common understanding of issues in the Arkavathy basin based on a review of existing literature and data, as well as to evolve consensus on future research priorities. The meeting was also a first step in building a long term network of experts working on the basin.

The meeting was organized into four thematic sessions dealing with water scarcity, water quality, fair allocation of water and sustainable water use. The participants noted that while the current consumption in the basin fall below the suggested litres per capita per day (LPCD) norms, a broader and contextualized definition of water scarcity should be evolved. Available indices of water quality, both official and independent, show appalling levels of deterioration, especially in industrial belts and downstream of the basin. It was also pointed out that given the stringent fiscal conditions under which urban and peri-urban water supply agencies operate and differences in private investments in coping, equitable and fair allocation of water are not achieved. Moreover, current levels of abstraction are unsustainable and availability may worsen under climate change.

The meeting also highlighted major gaps in the current state of knowledge.

  • Local water sources – TG Halli, Hesaraghatta, peri-urban tanks - are drying up; but the experts disagreed on the causes. Increase in temperatures, decrease in rainfall intensities, decrease in base-flows due to groundwater depletion, decrease in recharge due to plantations and sand mining, siltation and encroachment of channels, poor storm water infrastructure in urbanized areas were cited. But experts could not agree on a dominant cause or even whether some causes were more important in some areas than others.
  • The causes and processes of contamination are also poorly understood and data from different sources are inconsistent.
  • Current levels of groundwater extraction have not been reliably quantified; experts called for a careful water balance study.
  • There was disagreement on how private self-supply should be addressed in evolving LPCD norms and whether differences in norms between urban and rural dwellers are appropriate.
  • Most of the prior research has focused on Bengaluru. Peri-urban towns like Ramanagara, Kanakapura, Doddaballapura and Nelamangala and the gram panchayats have not received much attention.
  • The literature on agriculture and plantations in the Arkavathy basin is very scant, even though these have a big role in the water balance and provide livelihoods for hundreds of households.

Participants in the meeting represented a wide spectrum of institutions including Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board, Karnataka Urban Water Supply and Drainage Board, Central Ground Water Board, State Pollution Control Board, Water Resources Development Organization, Arghyam, Svaraj and Biome Environmental Solutions.