A UK-India project jointly funded by Britain’s Department for International Development, Natural Environment Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council has analysed the ways in which water is being accessed through various resources in and and around six small towns in the Western Himalaya.
The project studied water access from pipe to springs besides examining the sustainability challenges faced by these sources. It also outlined the policy options for securing water supplies to fulfil the needs of residents.
The case study mainly focused on Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Nepal. The key lessons drawn from this project to make cities ecologically as well as technologically smart were: Critical water zones are important: The long-term sustainability of water sources is essential for the maintenance and growth of urban settlements.
Critical water zones – the areas that are essential for the maintenance and regeneration of water flows across all landscapes should be properly harnessed.
Large infrastructure decisions and management choices: States are developing top-down, large-investment infrastructure projects with private partnership to supply water in mountain areas. More “solutions” need to be developed for local and small-scale sectors.
Multiple overlapping institutions for water supply: To address the needs of water systems, small towns are adopting new and varied governance structures.
State-led systems should engage local people and institutions both up and downstream, to ensure that development is useful to the communities it affects.
As India and the UK look to each other for areas of mutual dialogue, a focus on ecological smartness might provide a good opportunity for harnessing the considerable wealth of research on these issues in both countries, as well as responding to the challenges that both India and the UK face as they become increasingly urbanised.