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NEWS: Plan to ‘future proof’ Bangalore’s water and sanitation sector

Bangalore is the capital of Karnataka
 and has emerged as a global centre 
for ‘new’ service sector economies,
 such as information technology and biotechnology. Several domestic and international corporations such as Wipro, Infosys, Microsoft, and IBM are located here.

has the highest district income in the state, contributing approximately 34% 
to Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) (Directorate of Economics and Statistics, 2011). It has a fast emerging economy. The Government of Karnataka has undertaken mega-infrastructure projects such as elevated roads, a new metro, a new airport, and establishing special economic zones.

This rapid prosperity, and the opportunities afforded by the new knowledge economy for which Bangalore is renowned, have
 led to a doubling of the city’s physical footprint in the last decade (Census of India, 2011). However, this rapid and unplanned urbanisation has been at the cost of the city’s resources and liveability. In particular, the growth on the city’s peripheries is placing pressure on Bangalore’s natural and economic resources and infrastructure. This poses environmental and health risks for the entire city, especially for low-income and other vulnerable populations such as women, children, and the elderly.

In addition, the benefits of Bangalore’s growth have not been equally distributed. About
 43% of the city’s population is living in multi-dimensional poverty.

It is clear that Bangalore faces considerable socio-economic and environmental
 risks if it continues along the current development pathway. The city needs new approaches to help to deliver key sectors and infrastructure planning, to ensure that Bangalore, and all the communities in the city, can be resilient to climate change and other future challenges.

For nearly two years, an international – local team of experts from Atkins and IIHS have with CDKN support been working with the city Government to try and help identify and address these complicated development and climate risks facing the city. The team have piloted the ‘future proofing’ approach to urban development. Future proofing takes an integrated approach to tackling deep-rooted urban problems. The current approach in Indian cities like Bangalore is sometimes too sectorally focused to be fully effective in dealing with the complex, interlinked issues facing the city. Plans for the city rarely represent an integrated approach

A participatory ‘urban diagnostic’ exercise built a profile – or urban diagnostic- of these key risks, in conjunction with assessing the vulnerability and capacity of local institutions and stakeholders to respond to them can help to identify implementable solutions which can deliver multiple economic, social, and environmental benefits.

The team identified the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) as the principle agent for managing the design and implementation of a set of activities which will address these risks outlined in a Future Proofing Bangalore Action Plan.

The purpose of the action plan is to provide the tools to plan Bangalore’s resilience, as well as the capacity to
act among city leaders, infrastructure
and service providers and amongst the community. The urban diagnostic and 
the subsequent action planning has demonstrated that water and sanitation are fundamental to the present and 
future health and resilience of Bangalore. Therefore the action plan focuses on these issues, aiming to:

  • provide an example of a key sector at risk and demonstrate the wide-ranging and interlinked impacts of current issues and future pressures
  • help organisations and stakeholders to identify the key issues, challenges and the current and future impact on the communities and city’s prosperity – and see how their role in the future management of water and sanitation can be framed in the light of these challenges
  • demonstrate how their existing and future goals, plans and investments can be informed by this action plan
  • make the case for mobilisation of resources to unlock and address the vulnerabilities
  • identify groups and organisations who are stakeholders in the management of the water supply and sanitation and who can help to implement the action plan.

The action plan sets out the five themes which form the framework for 13 proposed future proofing projects to address the combination of water related issues of the city including water resources management (surface and ground water), water supply, water quality, sanitation and flooding in the context of the urban development trajectory of the city and its changing climate. These include actions that address both infrastructure and the enabling environment:

Enabling infrastructure improvements

There are a series of enabling infrastructure improvements which are needed to address water security issues of the
city. The range of improvements extend beyond water resources projects which focus on supply in isolation. Improvements to wastewater collection and treatment and distribution management are aimed at making more effective use of the water resources available to the city which at the same time will reduce the vulnerability of households to climate risks and build resilience. There are
also a range of initiatives focussed on demand management are needed to build resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change and to tackle pollution of the groundwater resources.

Policy and regulatory improvemen

Spanning the five themes are improvements to policy, legal and regulatory mechanisms and systems which are needed to help sustain change and align incentives between different interests within the city. Measures extend from enforcement of water abstraction permits through to fines and penalties relating to dumping of waste are examples.

Strengthening social capital

While capital improvements will take time to be fully delivered in the city, social capital can be used to initiate action, deliver improvements and change behaviour norms (for example of on demand management) on an ongoing basis across the strategy themes. The action plan proposals identify how action from BWSSB in association with community-based organisations and initiatives is necessary not only for coping with and managing the issues and gaps, but to complement BWSSB which are capital intensive in terms of finance.

While all the identified projects are important, it is clear that certain prioritisation is needed. Therefore, each project has been assessed on the basis of

  • Impact on vulnerabilityScreen Shot 2015-01-09 at 2.18.37 pm
  • Criticality of timing and sequence
  • Complexity of implementation

CDKN and the project team are now focused on how to secure the resources for implementation of the identified projects. The BWSSB is committed to taking these actions forward:

“This action plan defines a strategy and a number of constituent projects which will help to position the city to improve the quality of life for all residents as well as address long standing infrastructure gaps. In the process, we can build a more resilient city, better able to respond to future challenges.

We will also share the results of this project and the action being taken with other agencies operating in the Metropolitan area in order that a more integrated approach can be taken to responding to the challenges facing the city.
We are pleased with the involvement of BWSSB in this initiative and believe it represents a stepping stone on the path to a better future” Dr P.N Ravindra, Additional Chief Engineer (New Initiatives and Design)


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