Policy planning for water management requires a new paradigm, given the uncertainty regarding the future, an important aspect that traditional static plans fail to adequately prepare for (Haasnoot et al., 2013). An adaptive approach that is future-oriented guides decision-making by predicting system changes over time and making strategic plans to manage them. In this way, it combines short-term action with longer-term goals. This is the objective of the Adaptive Pathways approach. Haasnoot et al. (2013) show evidence of this approach being applied to water management in New York, the Rhine and Dutch Deltas, and the Thames estuary. While climate change has been the driving force behind many applications to date, its use in helping peri-urban areas cope with the uncertainty of urbanization had not been explored. Sources of uncertainty in peri-urban water management include anthropogenic factors (such as population, land use change, and economic activities), climatic factors, as well as institutional factors. For example, water resources may be affected differently depending on whether peri-urban areas remain under rural administration, form a Nagar panchayat1 or a new municipality, or get absorbed by a large metropolitan city. Such a future offers both threats and opportunities to water governance. Failing to adequately prepare for the future means that decision-makers will continue relying on ad-hoc coping strategies if today’s management plans fail to hold up over time. This can hamper the sustainability and resilience of urban transitions.
To support a more adaptive approach to peri-urban water management, the adaptation pathways approach may be used to structure policy interventions. The H2O-T2S in Urban Fringe Areas project does this through the lens of vulnerability and resilience. The project is executed in peri-urban areas of three metropolitan Indian cities: Pune, Hyderabad, and Kolkata. Two peri-urban villages are selected in each context. Through field research and local stakeholder workshops, context-specific vulnerabilities in peri-urban water resources are identified. Baseline studies examine the existing adaptive capacity in each case study to respond to opportunities and threats. These preparatory research activities look at three dimensions in an integrated way: institutions and governance, domestic water access, and livelihood water uses.
Distinctive past and current transformative pathways provide the starting point for exploring future scenarios (Sen et al., 2017). For this, multi-stakeholder workshops are planned as the next step in the project wherein decision-makers, local community representatives, and other experts co-design transformative pathways. The intervention is expected to help peri-urban areas, through their institutional context, cope with short-term vulnerabilities while also stimulating resilience in the longer term (Sen et al., 2017). This forms the intervention phase of the project. These workshops offer a new conceptual approach to govern rural to urban transitions. Local stakeholders in the three case study areas build on the status quo to work towards more sustainable pathways for the future (Sen et al., 2017). In this way, the approach is tailored to the local context.
The three-year project (which began in late 2018) was in progress at the time this book was published. Therefore, it is not possible to demonstrate the results of this approach in peri-urban contexts. Instead, the following section outlines the main steps in the design of transformative pathways. Further, it briefly describes the unique vulnerabilities faced by peri-urban regions around India to highlight key factors to consider during the intervention.
Methodology for Designing Transformative Pathways
Conceptualizing transformative pathways for peri-urban water management makes use of the adaptation pathways approach. Several articles and application manuals outline different stages in the preparation and design of pathways (Bosomworth & Gaillard, 2019; Butler et al., 2016; Coulter, 2019; Haasnoot et al., 2013). For the peri-urban context, these have been adapted as follows:
Stage 1: Define Goals and Objectives
Peri-urban actors start by formulating a clear vision and goals with regard to water management in the future. They define this objective based on what is important for those involved, their key concerns etc. Here, representation of key peri-urban stakeholders is important, as is clarifying the scope for this objective. On the one hand, having a broad scope is relevant in peri-urban contexts, given the complex, dynamic, and multi-scale characteristics. On the other hand, focusing on a specific type of water management issue or on a particular region keeps adaptation planning exercises manageable for first-time users and generates more context-specific vulnerabilities, future options etc. For example, the opening session of the project conducted by Butler et al. (2016) in Indonesia describes the geographic focus in the intervention in administrative terms (e.g. provincial or sub-district level).
Stage 2: Explore the Current Situation
The current situation refers to drivers of change as it relates to water resources. During this stage, workshop participants describe their operational practices used for peri-urban water management around three aspects: institutions, domestic and livelihood water uses. Here, drivers refer to the underlying causes of issues that concern to peri-urban actors (Butler et al., 2016). This exercise is meant to understand the types of peri-urban vulnerabilities and adaptive capacity that already exists within the system. Facilitators should stress the value of different sources of data and perspectives of the situation, to avoid discounting local and traditional knowledge. Research findings by the project team also serve as inputs during the discussions in stage 2.
Stage 3: Analyse Possible Future Scenarios
Participants describe possible futures for peri-urban water management. Considering a wide range of future scenarios is the strength of the approach. Their desired vision for the future must feature in the list of futures and could even be used as the starting point for discussions regarding alternatives. The remaining futures may be ranked according to how they meet the goals and objectives of peri-urban stakeholders. The business-as-usual, best, and worse-case scenarios may also be identified. It is useful to visualize each scenario using pictures or name them for easier discussion in the subsequent stages of the intervention (see e.g. Butler et al., 2016; Vervoort et al., 2014).
Stage 4: Design Pathways
The design of adaptation pathways can be done by forecasting from the present or back-casting from shared desired future goals (Vervoort et al., 2014). In the forecasting approach, the more commonly used of the two, users begin by identifying actions to address the existing drivers of vulnerability. For each action, a tipping point is identified for that action based on a future system condition. These tipping points serve as triggers for decision-making. One way of identifying potential tipping points is by combining information from current and future scenarios (Coulter, 2019). They explain that a tipping point may have negative consequences (e.g. actions are no longer effective, the point of no return) or may be positive, creating opportunities (e.g. funding, leadership changes). Before reaching this point, peri-urban actions will need to shift to an alternative course of action better equipped for that future condition. For this, a suitable trigger is needed. The type of monitoring and capacity to enact defines how far in advance these triggers are needed (Coulter, 2019; Haasnoot et al., 2013). Next, users identify actions that are robust against a range of possible futures. Promising responses can be clustered together to form the basis of transformation strategy and thereafter, arranged into logical sequences over time, resulting in transformative pathways (Sen et al., 2017). A commonly used schematic for visualizing adaptation pathways is that of a metro map (Fig. 8.5).
Stage 5: Evaluate Pathways Schematic
This helps compare between responses over time and against the goals of the stakeholders involved. Here, trade-offs may be needed with those who bear the cost from that option or have a preference for a more desirable one. Scorecards may be used during the evaluation stages as shown below (Fig. 8.6). This leads to an identification of preferred adaptation pathways.
Water Related Vulnerabilities in Peri-Urban India
Since the project’s inception in 2018, a selection of six peri-urban case studies across 3 Indian cities was made. They include the villages of Paud and Uruli Kanchan (Pune), Anajpur and Bowrampet (Hyderabad), Badai and Hadia (Kolkata). Thereafter, the H2O-T2S project team conducted preparatory research activities in the form of site visits, key informant interviews, and focus group discussions with peri-urban stakeholders in each site and government representatives from the local up to the state government level. This offers an initial impression of water-related vulnerabilities across peri-urban locations.
The three regions are shaped by different agro-climatic and hydrogeological conditions, creating differences in resource environments. Moreover, as water is a state subject in India, selecting sites in different Indian states allows for a comparison of institutional contexts as well. As a result, water dependencies and urban transformations differ significantly across and even within states. For example, major economic activities in Badai and Hadia village, both situated in peri-urban Kolkata, include dyeing factories and wastewater aquaculture respectively. In Badai, this stems from the access to affordable groundwater needed in the manufacturing process. Meanwhile in Hadia, situated in a wetland region, fishermen have access to a large wastewater canal from Kolkata city for fish cultivation. Although both types of economic activities benefit from the access to markets in Kolkata, the need for different water resources as inputs shape their unique economic activities.
Not surprisingly, peri-urban vulnerabilities across India were also context-specific. Paud, situated near Pune in the western Ghats in Maharashtra, has access to surface water resources from large nearby dams. In contrast, Anajpur and Bowrampet near Hyderabad face water shortages as they are situated in drought-prone regions. Furthermore, in Kolkata, some peri-urban areas where local aquifers are contaminated with arsenic or salinity face water insecurity. However, vulnerability does not stem solely from the biophysical environment. Water demand for one use is seen to have knock-on effects elsewhere in the community. For example, small factories are blamed for the release of raw effluents into local surface water bodies. As a result, local farmlands in Badai have, in the past, become contaminated by the release of wastewater from nearby dyeing factories. This resulted in agricultural losses for some peri-urban farmers. Historically, such tensions are also found in Anajpur village between surrounding industries and local farmers, poultry farmers and cattle herders. Meanwhile in Paud, ongoing construction of a large housing complex is expected to nearly double the population and, with it, cause a drastic increase in domestic water demand. The developer plans to invest in its own private drinking water supply, athough separate from the village. As a result, unequal water access could become a problem in the near future.
The government agencies for water management are also sources of water-related vulnerabilities. In West Bengal, regulation of groundwater abstraction is the responsibility of the State Water Investigation Development (SWID), as stated in the Groundwater Resources Act (2005). However, implementation capacity at the block level is limited, as is the sanctioning power to enforce harsher penalties for non-compliance. Meanwhile, interesting institutional set-ups are found in Hyderabad, where urban development centres around the Outer Ring Road (ORR) which surrounds Hyderabad and its peri-urban areas. Drinking water supply within the Hyderabad Municipal area is the responsibility of the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWSSB). Earlier, areas outside Hyderabad city fell under the responsibility of the state government’s Rural Water Supply and Sewerage (RWSS), but jurisdiction of the urban service provider was extended to include all areas within the ORR. Therefore, villages within the ORR also receive water from HMWSSB. This example shows how infrastructure to improve urban transportation has also affected the rules for water service provision.
Given these changing dynamics, evidence of adaptation to some of the above mentioned vulnerabilities was observed across the three study regions. Villages like Hadia (Kolkata) and Paud (Pune) are home to cooperative fishing communities (Fig. 8.7). In Paud, the Bhoi fisherfolk are a traditional fishing community, dating back several generations. In Hadia, a large fishing cooperative was formed in 1999. To safeguard their livelihoods from changing dynamics, fishers’ co-operatives were established, offering several benefits to members like shared labour responsibilities, access to financial resources for licences, fishing inputs, or emergencies, and risk reduction by sharing profits from fish catch.
With regard to drinking water, the informal sector has helped peri-urban households close the supply gap. Informal providers operate in many peri-urban areas. Small bottled water industries that sell packaged groundwater to neighbouring villages, for instance, are mushrooming in parts of peri-urban Kolkata. Although many companies claim that the water is filtered, there are concerns that their illegal nature raises questions of the treatment processes and drinking water standards followed. Elsewhere, in peri-urban Pune and Hyderabad, private and NGO funded Reverse Osmosis (RO) plants can be found besides the public RO plants set up by local panchayats.Footnote 3 Private tankers also supply water to peri-urban households and businesses, especially during the dry season, and to larger residential complexes (Fig. 8.8).
Designing Transformative Pathways Workshop
Given the status quo of water-related vulnerabilities and peri-urban adaptation strategies, the next step is to design suitable workshops for peri-urban actors to explore transformative strategies. For this, a number of design choices must be considered. An appropriate level for the intervention needs to be selected. While the H2O-T2S project planned for state-level workshops, this choice highlights both pros and cons. On the one hand, it enables a focus on state-level policies to sustainably manage uncertain peri-urban futures. Given the fact that water management is shaped to a large extent by state-level policies, it makes sense to target state-level decision-makers when advocating for a more integrated and resilient approach to peri-urban governance.
On the other hand, representation of all stakeholders’ views and inputs is essential in the adaptation pathways approach. To ensure this, state-level decision-makers should also participate. Although the research team has a good local network, the availability and willingness of senior government representatives to attend workshops conducted by research projects can prove challenging. Efforts to familiarize state-level officials with the project, and what it offers in terms of capacity and data, might be needed earlier on in the intervention. Regular updates from the project team would be another way to strengthen relationships before the workshop phase of the project. Furthermore, participation of local communities is also essential. Meaningful and open discussions between government and peri-urban residents can be difficult, given the power differences between these actors. The project will consider ways to manage this in the design of the workshops.
The preparatory assessment presented in the previous section highlights that, even within the same metropolitan area, significant differences in vulnerability and coping capacities can be found between (and even within) peri-urban villages. Therefore, one should consider how state-level workshops can design pathways that are context-specific. It may be necessary to focus on issues common across case-studies from that region or conduct pathways development exercises in parallel within two smaller groups of participants. Another option would be to begin the pathways exercise in a local-level workshop, with communities and local decision-makers. Once their vulnerabilities and visions for the future have been incorporated, a state level workshop will continue the design of pathways.
The three project regions offer sufficient differences for knowledge sharing in the national-level workshop that is planned at the end of the intervention. This will help put peri-urban governance on the national agenda. Moreover, national-level policymakers will hear directly from the state and local-level actors about their context-specific pathways for managing water-related vulnerabilities during urban transitions.
While there is sufficient literature available on the stages in the adaptation pathways approach, the methods used to facilitate this with stakeholders are less clear. Little has been written about how the approach is applied or tailored to specific application contexts. Co-designing transformative pathways with stakeholders in the H2O-T2S project is expected to generate insights on its use as a tool for planning. The experiences gained from multiple project sites are critical. They will contribute necessary improvements to this innovative approach for capacity building, to benefit future uses elsewhere (Sen et al., 2017).