PhD Research Projects

Bhopal. Photograph: Geert van Der Meulen

Bhuj. Photograph: Geert van der Meulen

Kozhikode. Photograph: Geert van Der Meulen

PhD Posters

PhD Posters


PhD Research Projects

Within the framework of Water4Change thirteen PhD Researchers conduct research at seven different institutions in India and the Netherlands. Get to know their research topics below.

Abishek Maiti

Fusion of Earth Observation Data with Geo-information for Assessing the Challenges in Water Sensitive Cities in India

Supervisor – Sander Oude Elberink, Faculty ITC, University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands

Promotor – George Vosselman, Faculty ITC, University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands

01/2020 – 12/2023

Abstract – Optimal harmonization of technology and infrastructure with the urban water cycle plays a crucial role in the sustainable management, planning, and utilization of water resources. This could include mapping vulnerabilities and failure or recovery pathways, adapting to unknown but systemic compound threats, and recovering from the compound and/or catastrophic threat in an attempt to support the elaboration of enhancement strategies designed for resilient fast-growing secondary cities. Remote sensing and geo-information science provide an ideal framework for initiating such strategies and better understanding the importance of sustainable practices in urban water settings. One of the key challenges of urban change detection is to automatically update the existing information by incorporating the detected changes among manmade features.

The specific research objectives are: a) classifying urban features from high-resolution remote sensing imagery, b) Fusion of multi-source remote sensing products to automatically update geo-information, and c) estimating the error budget of the derived product for reliable inference relevant to the urban water cycle.

Research Questions –

How to optimally deal with different spatial scale effects observed in the EO data and the geo-information during integration?

What is the influence of uncertainty and error propagation on the data for interpretation?

How to optimally train the deep learning model while handling inaccurate data? What are the selection criteria of hyperparameters during the training of the model?

How to attain acceptable accuracy with the limited amount of data?

Methodology – The research aims to develop a novel fusion algorithm for characterizing the water-sensitive urban features within a particular vicinity. As deep learning algorithms are becoming state-of-the-art in this field, our methodology is to use and adapt the most recent deep learning networks for these tasks. Our approach is to develop methods based on international available datasets, to be applied in the Indian context when data is available.

Expected results – The expected results are in accurately mapping the vulnerable urban regions to varying water levels on high-resolution satellite and UAV images, thus providing input for initiating socio-economic urban water resilience strategies/policies at both local and regional scales.

Publications / Conference Proceedings / Presentations –

Maiti, A., Oude Elberink, S., & Vosselman, G. (2022). Effect of label noise in semantic segmentation of high-resolution aerial images and height data. ISPRS Annals of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences, 2, 275-282.


Indra Mani Tripathi

Integrated Urban Water Drainage for Water-Sensitive Indian Cities

Supervisor – Prof. Pranab K Mohapatra, Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar (IITGN), Gandhinagar, India

01/2021 – 01/2025

Abstract – Stormwater is a vital alternative urban water source that helps relieve pressure on fresh water resources and enhance groundwater recharge while reducing the environmental impact of stormwater runoff. The efficiency of conventional centralized urban drainage systems facing prospective climate change impacts. The present study focuses on stormwater drainage for water-sensitive Indian cities. An integrative approach will be developed considering technology, spatial planning, society, and governance to co-create a framework along with the stakeholders. The proposed study will be based on a rigorous GIS-based screening system to identify potentially acceptable stormwater collecting locations in urban areas (specifically for Indian cities). The study evaluates site suitability based on several parameters such as demand, the match between harvestable runoff and demand, weighted average distance, practice by citizens, and regulations by the local authorities, etc. In addition, the effect of future demands based on climate change and resilience on drainage will be attempted. Moreover, the impacts of urbanization and climate change on sustainable stormwater management will be investigated. For this, three scenarios will be considered: status quo, business as usual, and best-case. Three rainfall events with a return period of 2, 10, and 50 years will be examined. Additional to current rainfall intensities, future precipitation intensities based on the Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP) 8.5 will be contemplated. Along with this, a methodology for quantifying groundwater recharge variability in space and time will be developed by defining and applying some analytical equations. The validation will be performed based on groundwater flow and solute transport modeling. Further, an intelligent drainage system (IDS) will be developed based on the application of IoT and sensors. The framework will be developed considering three Indian cities (Bhopal, Bhuj, and Kozhikode). The whole framework would be based on the identification of key indices such that it can be replicated for other cities.

Research Questions –

What are the parameters to identify suitable stormwater harvesting sites in a city environment, and how can their calculations be done?

What can be the threshold values of parameters to rank the sites?

Which Nature-based solutions are most suitable in the city environment, and how will densification scenarios affect stormwater management?

What can be the best-case scenario for stormwater management?

How can the modeling of groundwater recharge variability in space and time be performed?

What IoT-based drainage management systems can be proposed to incorporate drainage waste management to make the system more effective?

What are key indices (considering technology, society, environment, and governance) for an Indian city to be water sensitive, and what is the current status of these indices for the city?

What interventions (involving technology, society, environment, and governance) are needed to improve these indices?

Methodology – The following steps will be followed:

For locating suitable stormwater harvesting sites in urban areas

– Evaluation of suitability criteria

– Estimation of harvestable runoff

– Evaluation of screening parameters

– Estimation of screening parameters

– Ranking and validation

For analyzing the impact of climate change and urbanization on sustainable stormwater management

– Rainfall-runoff simulation

– Sub-catchment delineation and parametrization

– Calibration and Validation

– Scenarios of urban densification and local stormwater management

– For quantification of groundwater recharge variability in urban areas

– Conceptual model definition

– Implementation into a numerical model

– Parameterization of areal recharge

– Calibration and Iteration

For identifying stormwater management indices in the Indian context

– Prototyping (Framework and indicator development through the outcomes of two workshops in three Indian secondary cities (Bhopal, Bhuj, and Kozhikode): ‘ Framing the transition challenges’ and ‘Vision framing workshop’).

– Refinement and piloting (Development of assessment methodology and indicator refinement through pilot testing).

– Validation (Applications in other Indian cities).

Expected results –

The proposed methodology can be successfully applied to any city in collaboration with the local water utility.

The method will effectively identify, short-list, and rank potentially suitable stormwater harvesting sites in a city.

The identified potential stormwater harvesting sites can aid planners in prioritizing schemes in locations that will have the most impact on reducing potable water demand.

Implementation of nature-based solutions has a crucial impact on the study area’s water balance by significantly reducing surface runoff.

Climate change considerably impacts the effectiveness of stormwater management measures.

Managers of urban groundwater can use the groundwater recharge methodology to assess the relative contributions of various recharge sources at a city scale by considering quality and quantity factors.

The WSC Index will thoroughly assess a city’s strengths and shortcomings regarding its water-sensitive development objectives.

Help to increase a city’s water sensitivity by guiding management responses.

Its full potential as a global tool will be realized with more testing and improvement of the WSC Index in diverse contexts.

Publications / Conference Proceedings / Presentations

Tripathi, I.M., Mahto, S. S., Mohapatra, P.K., Jain, Vikrant (2022), “Impacts of climate change and human activities on the dryland rivers in India”, River Corridor, Research & Management, May 30- June 1, 2022.

Tripathi, I.M., Mahto, S.S., Mohapatra, P. K. (2022), “Drought analysis using bivariate copulas in the Indian secondary cities”, AGU Fall Meeting, December, 2022.


Geert J.M. van der Meulen

Decolonising Water-Sensitive Urban Design

Supervisor – Taneha Kuzniecow Bacchin, Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands

Promoter – Machiel J. van Dorst, Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands

01/2020 – 12/2023

Abstract – The Water-Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) concept offers an approach for the alternative spatial organisation of cities and water infrastructures fit to address urban and climatic challenges. Being conceptualised in a developed city context, the site specific relevance of the ideal water-sensitive city remains questioned and transferability concerns arise when mainstreamed across global discourses. Beyond developed city adaptation uncertainties, Indian secondary cities face more coexisting formalities, dynamics, and adaptation urgencies, alongside limited data availability or accessibility, to which the WSUD approach and its interventions are less or even not suitable. Reviewing WSUD with a design lens, the guiding concept of water sensitivity is redefined and repositioned as a context variable to conserve, regain, or strengthen for water-sensitive urban development. Considerateness of context-specific water sensitivity goes beyond physical characteristics of a site to include the spatial manifestation of a hydro-cultural dimension in local water cultures, practices, and artefacts. Systemic conservation, ecosystem service provision and expansion of the urban elements as a network is secured by establishing design guidelines tailored to local formal and informal urban design and urban water management practice. Situating the WSUD process as such enables local practitioners to appropriate and engage in WSUD fit for unique physical contexts tied to local culture and history, and can secure suitable local water-sensitive urban development and global mainstreaming of WSUD.

Methodology – By means of a literature review the concept of water sensitivity is repositioned, in relation to urban design practice and context. Through fieldwork (observations through walking and drawing) the novel positioning is situated in Indian secondary cities to uncover a hydro-cultural dimension highlighting local challenges and opportunities for water-sensitive urban development. Interviews with formal and informal practitioners of urban design and urban water management inform design guidelines for spatially operationalising the opportunities.

Expected results – The research is theoretically aimed at repositioning water sensitivity from merely a guiding concept or goal to a context variable for the urban design process and by doing so developing the relation between the WSUD concept and urban design theory. A WSUD approach more considerate of context specificities enables appropriation of local practitioners. For the context and practice of Indian secondary cities, this is facilitated by the development of design guidelines which exemplify local urban conditions and elements to potentially or alternatively act as water sensitive and how to conserve, regain, or develop those in space. Ultimately these outputs are aimed at an approach to decolonising WSUD as an effort of unlearning its developed city approach and facilitating an establishment per context based on site-specific entry points.

Publications / Conference Proceedings / Presentations –

Van der Meulen, G.J.M., Van Dorst, M.J., Bacchin, T.K. (2022). Water sensitivity and context specificity – concept and context in Water-Sensitive Urban Design for secondary cities,Urban Water Journal,

Van der Meulen, G.J.M. (Forthcoming). Localness in water-sensitive urban development for Bhuj and Kozhikode, India, Proceedings of the 15th Conference of the International Forum of Urbanism. Bordeaux, France: Bordeaux National School of Architecture and Landscape.

Van der Meulen, G.J.M., Bacchin, T.K., Van Dorst, M.J. (Forthcoming). Hydrocultural dimension in Water-Sensitive Urban Design for Kozhikode, India.


Neha Mungekar

Assessing and strengthening reparative governance capacities in postcolonial secondary cities. Case – Bhopal and Bhuj.

Supervisors – Annelli Janssen, DRIFT, Rotterdam Netherlands; Katharina Hölscher, Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands.

Promoter – Derk Loorbach, DRIFT, Rotterdam Netherlands

01/2020 – 12/2023

Abstract – India is adopting water and transition management paradigms from the Global North to resolve its complex water governance challenges. However, these paradigms fall short of acknowledging systemic inequities, particularly in postcolonial geographies. My studies have highlighted how concerned actors repair the governance processes and practices by performing informality. We recognise repair as a reparative, incremental and iterative mode of transition that aims toward restorative justice for current and historical breakdowns and shortcomings, along with making amends for the future. Through informal processes and practices, private service providers, users, and the authorities seek to enable water services by navigating and negotiating with the bureaucratic and local institutions. Although this grey approach is far from perfect, it aids the actors in enabling water service.

In this regard, I have developed a framework of governance capacities that examines how directionality is organised within informality through the consolidation of actors’ roles and how they in(ex)novate to challenge the institutional hindrances. During my fieldwork, the framework guided me in examining opportunities, gaps and barriers that affect the implementation of local water governance. I interviewed 59 stakeholders at their workplaces and facilitated two W4C workshops. Along with assessing existing capacities, I also observed that the stakeholders provided contradictory reflections in personal interviews and workshops. Although workshops intended to provide a common platform, they did not offer a ‘safe space’ to discuss. In response, with the help of the framework, I attempted to design an experimentation platform through ‘workshop design’. The framework’s uniqueness lies in assessing grey practices, sub-conscious motivations, and systemic challenges, helping to meet localised water management aspirations in secondary cities of India – Bhuj and Bhopal.

Research Question – How informality aids in developing and mobilising reparative capacities to enable water sensitivity in secondary Indian cities?

Methodology – The methodology is twofold – 1) assessing through visual ethnography, 2) facilitating and designing a workshop.

I did comparative visual ethnography for the analytical part of my research, which comprises preparing a framework and assessing the capacities on the ground. The analysis helped me understand how and why water governance was performed the way it was and when it resulted in a reparative transition. Additionally, the first two workshops hosted by the W4C programme on problem framing and vision-making aided in further appropriating the framework.

The learning from the fieldwork and the first two workshops made me realise the stakeholder’s dilemma to speak the truth and be politically correct. The results brought out the incompetence of engagement platforms to be unable to acknowledge the root problems. In this case, Action Research (AR) plays an instrumental role in catalysing a transformative change. Designing spaces for casual and candid engagement attempts to bridge the gaps and aims to strengthen capacities.

Expected results – The secondary literature and fieldwork learnings aided me in devising a framework of governance capacities abductively. The framework is a combination of Consolidative and Jugaadu capacities. Consolidative capacity examines how directionality is organised within informality by consolidating actors’ roles. Jugaadu Capacity focuses on ex(in)novation to challenge/mitigate/navigate the institutional hindrances. The capacities framework helped me assess the existing capacities performed in Bhopal and Bhuj and illustrated two different types of ‘repairs’.

Bhopal showcased how governance capacities were mobilised only to restore their earlier state rather than addressing the root problems. These were also due to perceived water sufficiency, political pressure, and financial, human, and disciplinary (social studies) incompetency. While Bhuj city made reparations. Due to frequent calamities, the users organised themselves to identify and address the core issues. With interdisciplinary action groups between researchers and knowledge brokers (school principals), community workers, and users worked on making reparation.

The results appropriated the workshop design to enable honest engagements.

Publications/Conference Proceedings and Presentations –

Mungekar, N., Janssen, A., Hölscher, K. & Loorbach, D. (2022) Performing comparative visual ethnography to study networks in water governance practices of repair in Bhopal and Bhuj. in Garner-Knapp, L., Mason, J., Mulherin, T. & Visser, L. (Eds.), Informality in making policy (work) [Manuscript submitted for publication]

Mungekar, N., Janssen, A., Hölscher. K, Loorbach, D. (2022, 11 November). Reparative experimental governance for postcolonial geographies. Towards water sensitivity through informal capacities in the secondary cities of India[Conference Presentation] 2022 RSA Winter Conference, London.

Vora, S., Mungekar, N., Heinecke, S., Mathur, V. (2022, 28 July) Urban Living Labs: Innovation for Resilience[Webinar] Transitions Research.

Mungekar, N., Janssen, A., Hölscher. K, Loorbach, D. (2022, 24 June). Enabling reparative informality for water sensitive secondary Indian cities [Webinar] GNHRE-UNEP, Online

Mungekar, N. (2022, 18 May) Van Wie is het Water? (Who Owns the Water?). Sumter, D (Host) Uit de Ivoren Toren, Season 4, Episode 7 Centre for Sustainability [Podcast]

Mungekar, N., Hölscher. K, Loorbach, D. (2021, 17 June). Towards transformative informality for water sensitive secondary Indian cities [Conference Presentation] Transformation Conference 2021, Online/Barcelona

Mungekar, N., Hölscher. K, Loorbach, D. (2021, 9 April). Towards transformative informality for water sensitive secondary Indian cities [Conference Presentation] 6th Network for Early career researchers in Sustainability Transitions (NEST) Conference 2021, Online/Sofia

Mungekar, N., Hölscher. K, Loorbach, D. (2020, 20 Aug). [Panelist] Vinke-de Kruijf, J., Dobre, C. &  Hölscher. K (Hosts) Session – A transition studies lens on the challenge of adapting to a changing climate.  11th International Sustainability Transitions (IST) Conference 2020, Online/AIT Austria

Mungekar, N., Hölscher. K, Loorbach, D. (2020, 19 Aug). Assessing the role of informality in urban water transformations in India [Conference Presentation] 11th International Sustainability Transitions (IST) Conference 2020, Online/AIT Austria


Raviraj Dave

Understanding the impact of disparate hazards on road infrastructure resilience

Supervisor – Dr. Udit Bhatia, Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar (IITGN), Gandhinagar, India

02/2020 – 02/2025

Abstract – The warming climate has intensified the frequency and duration of extreme weather events globally. The accelerating populace with rapid urbanization escalates the impact of extreme events leading to life-threatening hazards that stress the infrastructure systems. Resilient infrastructure is critical for people’s well-being, quality of life, and economic prospects, with the transportation infrastructure underpinning society for connecting people and places, especially road networks. It is critical to evaluate the response of the road system perturbation due to external stressors. Despite the advancement in risk hazard modeling, we lack a systematic framework and model to assess the effect of extreme events on road infrastructure systems. Flooding risk results from a complex interaction of hazards, exposure, and vulnerability. The susceptibility and degree to which the social and infrastructure conditions are affected by external stressors are recognized through social vulnerability though its consideration in establishing a hotspot of the socially vulnerable region in an urban environment seldom exists. Hydrological hazards often occur in concurrency and with compounding effects. The consideration of the concurrence of extreme precipitation-induced events’ impact on the road system is missing. Considering compound events’ impact on infrastructure systems is vital, especially the flooding events induced by various sources. Though past studies have explored the compounding effect of fluvial and coastal flooding, the interaction and compounding impact of pluvial, fluvial, and coastal floods on road infrastructure is yet to be explored. We develop an integrated framework to study the effect of concurrent hazards, i.e., landslide, debris flow, and flood, on regional road networks. We illustrate the proposed framework’s application to assess the functionality loss from the individual and concurrent events induced by extreme precipitation. Further, we propose a framework to evaluate the compounding effect of pluvial, fluvial, and coastal floods’ on road infrastructure in coastal urban cities through traffic delay. Our analysis will provide beneficial references to understand the floods’ impact on the road system that assists in making the city more sensitive and resilient.

Research Questions –

What will be the increase in perturbation of the road network from the concurrent precipitation-induced disasters’ impact?

How do compound fluvial, pluvial, and coastal floods interact and exacerbate traffic delays at an urban scale?

Methodology –

We develop an integrated hydrodynamical, geomechanical, and network science-based framework to model and analyze the effect of concurrent extreme precipitation-induced floods and landslides (shallow landslides and debris flow) on transportation systems through 1D shallow landslide and debris flow models and 2D hydrodynamic model based on unsteady flow and shallow water equations. We identify the spatiotemporal overlapping of hydrological hazards with regional road networks and analyze connectivity losses within the basin. We analyze road network disruptions and recovery using network science-based mathematical models.

We further proposed the framework to assess the compounding effect of disparate flooding in an urban environment through 1D-2D coupled hydrodynamic modeling and their interaction through nested boundary conditions. We will follow the microscopic traffic model to evaluate the traffic delay triggered due to compound flooding.

Expected results –

Our results from the study of the concurrent impact of extreme precipitation-induced events on regional road networks show that not accounting for concurrence in the correlated hazards of the fluvial flood, shallow landslide, and debris flow could result in the underestimation of functionality losses of road network systems by 71%, which in turn can undermine the pre-disaster preparedness and post-disaster recovery efforts.

The study on compound floods’ impact on urban road systems will help in generating disparate scenarios of interaction between different events and the traffic delay caused due to these events and will help in the identification of critical locations in the city.

Publications / Conference Proceedings / Presentations –

Dave, R., Subramanian, S. S., & Bhatia, U. (2021). Extreme precipitation induced concurrent events trigger prolonged disruptions in regional road networks. Environmental Research Letters, 16(10), 104050.

Dave, R., Subramanian, S. S., & Bhatia, U. (2021). Extreme Precipitation-induced Concurrent Disasters Risk Assessment through Socio-economic and Topographic Vulnerability. AGU fall meeting, December, 2021.

Dave, R. & Bhatia, U. (2023). Investigating the impact of extreme precipitation-induced flooding on a road network disruption. EGU, April, 2023 (Submitted)


Srishti Singh

Assessment of city level water sensitivity in Indian cities: A Socio-Ecological Approach

Supervisor – Dr. Yogesh Kumar Garg and Dr. Vinay Mohan Das, Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology (MANIT), Bhopal, India

2022 – 2025 (expected)

Abstract – The relationship between the variations in the ecosystem and human well-being has both current and future prospects. That is, the immediate response approach where just to solve today’s pressing problems, we tend to deplete tomorrow’s ecological resource base. There is a need for a socio-ecological approach in assessing urban water interactions which involves collaboration between different water users and environment and it requires competent citizens capable of understanding/dealing with the local water scenarios.

The concept of the urban water cycle depicts the connectivity and interdependence of urban water resources and human activities, and the need for integrated management. It needs to be understood that these different forms of water are not isolated from each other, but rather they are closely linked in what is called the water cycle (UNESCO, 2020). Any approach to water resources management that takes the linkages within the water cycle systematically into account may be called ‘Conjunctive Water Management’. It is an approach to water resources management in which surface water, groundwater and other components of the water cycle are considered as one single resource, and therefore are managed in closest possible coordination, in order to maximize overall benefits from water at the short and at the long term (IW, 2022). The potential benefits of conjunctive water management are that there would be more water resources available for use and lower risk of water shortages, water resources sustainability, there are environmental, economic and social benefits and Sustainable Development Goals are achieved.

The well-being of present and future human populations depends on ecologically sustainable and socially equitable ways of living in the world (Neve, 2020). The urban water cycle is also a good concept for studying the water balance (also called the water budget) and conducting water inventories of urban areas.

Research Questions –

How societal actions impact the water ecosystem services?

What are the drivers that affect the level of water sensitivity in a city?

What are the parameters for measuring water sensitivity of society for ecological well-being?

Methodology –

The research comprises two parts; in the first part there is an assessment (appraising the importance) of water sensitivity at city level which involves identification of various factors and indicators. The second part would be a quantitative statistical method where the water sensitivity shall be measured and benchmarked across the city involving the different sections of the society.

Expected results –

A livelihood is sustainable when it does not deplete/disrupt ecosystems, can cope with and recover from stresses and maintain or enhance its capabilities both now and in the future. The research will develop a link between the society and the environment; what impacts do ecosystems have on human well-being as well as the pressure exerted by humans on the ecosystems. It will give an evaluation of how actions, behavior and perception of people directly impact the urban water systems and their efficient management in the ecological setup.

The research will eventually benchmark the water sensitivity level in the city and based on various factors and drivers will provide a roadmap that will transition the communities/cities towards water sensitive communities/cities.

Publications / Conference Proceedings / Presentations –

Singh S., (2022, November 05). India Water Week. [Conference], Abstract Available at:

Trivedi K., Singh S. and Vyas D., (2022, March 05). Role of Water Literacy for Urban Water Management in Indian context. Roorkee Water Conclave. [Conference Paper]


Tanya Dwivedi

Appraising inequity in access to water for Indian cities

Supervisor – Dr. Manmohan Kapshe, Dr. Yogesh Kumar Garg, Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology, Bhopal, India

01/2022 – 01/2025

Abstract – Water is intrinsically related to peoples’ life and livelihood across the globe and access to it is imperative for better life conditions. While in its natural form, water as a resource is unequally distributed across the globe, mismanagement leads to inequity in its access. Cities are arenas of manifestations of social relations and power imbalances, and often lead to water issues being accentuated in marginalised and urban poor communities. Even though many studies have captured the physical access to tap water, studies that reflect consequences of power dynamics on water are largely absent. Water issues are complex and cannot be solved only through technical solutions. Access to water, thus, must reflect values of water equity and requires inspecting the avoidable and unfair inequalities in access to water among the city residents. This research is an attempt to re-define ‘access to water’ more comprehensively with inclusion of aspects of distributive and procedural justice through interpretation of access to include 1. access to water as an amenity and 2. access to water-related processes and platforms. An index to quantify redefined ‘access to water’ shall be prepared based on literature review and consolidated expert opinion. Within a city, this quantification of access to water shall illustrate inequity among city residents. Additionally, driving forces for inequity in access to water shall be identified through literature survey and expert opinion. Framework for appraising water equity within the scope of this research shall include assessment of access to water, identification of driving forces of inequity in access and relationship between them. This framework shall help in identifying areas of interventions based on the relationship between level of access and driving force of inequity in access for a particular area.

Research Questions –

What does ‘access to water’ mean for an urban household?

What parameters can be used to quantify access to water at a household level?

Is there inequity in access to water within the city?

What are the driving forces leading to inequity in access to water in Indian cities?

How can measurement of water equity in a city contribute to understanding the problem of water inequity and improving access to water of urban households?

Methodology – ‘Access to water’ shall be re-defined through literature review more comprehensively, to reflect facets of both distributive and procedural justice. To enrich the definition further and finalise the indicators of assessment, a multi-criteria decision-making study shall be conducted. Quantification of ‘access to water’ shall be done through household surveys and shall be mapped at a city-level to highlight areas of inequity in access to water. In addition to quantification of access, the study shall also identify various factors which drive inequity in access to water at a city level. The relationship between level of access and driving forces of inequity shall be analyzed at city level to propose specific areas of intervention for improving access to water.

Expected results – This research is expected to broaden the definition of ‘access to water’ to reflect the social nature of water and thereby aid in looking at water issues more comprehensively. A definition of ‘access to water’ which reflects aspects of distributive and procedural justice shall help in acknowledging the equity issues related with access. As water issues as well as their solutions are highly context-sensitive, the framework developed in this research shall help in structuring the problem of inequity in access to water and indicating the type of interventions required to improve access to water for specific context. It may be used as a tool by City Managers, Planners, Bureaucrats as well as non-governmental actors to appraise water equity in their cities and situate interventions based on their unique context.

Publications / Conference Proceedings / Presentations –

Dwivedi, Tanya. (2022, November 1-5). Emerging water management paradigms for climate change adaptation[Paper presentation]. 7th India Water Week 2022, Delhi, India


Raquel Hadrich Silva

Renegotiating culture to achieve water sensitivity for coastal cities in India

Supervisor – Taneha Kuzniecow Bacchin, TU Delft, Delft, The Netherlands; Margreet Zwarteveen, IHE-Unesco, Delft, The Netherlands

Promotor – Dominic Stead, TU Delft, Delft, The Netherlands

01/2020 – 06/2024

Abstract – This research engages with political ecology’s critique of ecological urbanism to organize water sensitive urban design in a way that instigates planners and designers to confront issues of unequal representation and distribution. Taking experiences of water sensitivity in coastal cities as an empirical starting point, this investigation questions whether planning and design imaginaries and processes have the potential to enable cultural change to achieve sustainability in a way that is socially just. Taking the current efforts from the Netherlands to promote water sensitivity globally, the first objective of this research is to investigate Dutch policy ideas about water that have travelled to India. From there, the second objective is to analyze the reception of these ideas by looking at how urban designers and planners in India attempt to re-configure coastal city spaces through translated visions of water sensitivity. Finally, the last objective focuses on the local reactions that emerge and challenge the ways coastal Indian cities transition to a new water culture. To understand how changes in water cultures occur, this research draws on qualitative methods of the social sciences.

Research Questions –

How are water cultures renegotiated to achieve Water Sensitivity for cities in India?

Sub-questions: How are Dutch water sensitive policy ideas/designs set in motion? / How are water sensitive urban designs translated and re-interpreted by planners/urban designers in India? / How do new water cultures resonate and/or are challenged by different groups in negotiations of the water sensitive city in India?

Methodology – Drawing from a qualitative methods design, a variety of different tools of data gathering (listed below) that are particularly applicable to case studies will be combined and triangulated seeking to answer the research questions. Providing the complete set of methods and ways that they will ideally be used in the research does not consider the possibility of a certain level of craftsmanship that is possible during the data gathering experience. Methods can be adapted and re-invented to overcome challenges related to the context that is encountered and the circumstances that have to be dealt with. I will use document analysis, direct observations, participant observation and key informant interviews.

Expected results – This research investigates how waterscapes become constituted through the construction and recognition of particular water cultures, subjugation of others that are rendered invisible and forgotten, and multiple contestations that emerge from this process. At an empirical level, it is interested in comparing the processes that constitute an aspiration for water sensitivity in Indian cities considered global and secondary. Three key themes will be of significance to investigate the processes of water culture assemblages as nodes of concentrated actions and activities that bring together people, ideas, funds, etc.: policy travels; urban design; and co-creation. The theme of policy travels combines conceptualizations from two sets of literature, policy mobility and policy translation, to investigate how networks of actors interact to make global water cultures reach India from the Netherlands. The urban design theme is associated with planning and architecture and assumes that the implementation of these ideas implicates water sensitivity as a particular element in the construction of urban identities in India. Finally, the theme of co-creation derives from the assumption that decisions around the future of water are marked by power relations that do not fully capture the socio-cultural diversity in cities. Therefore, this theme will investigate the social dynamics that may emerge from the contested process of making the Water Sensitive Indian city. These three themes guide the formulation of three separate sub-questions to be answered in the form of three academic articles. A fourth article addresses the main research question by bringing the three themes together in a single contribution.

Publications / Conference Proceedings / Presentations –

Raquel Hadrich Silva; Dominic Stead; Margreet Zwarteveen and Taneha Bacchin. (29 June – 1 July 2022). Making water cultures globally mobile: how knowledge travels between The Netherlands and India through water sensitive urban design. IFoU – 15th Conference of the International Forum on Urbanism.

Raquel Hadrich Silva. (13 – 14 October 2022). Renegotiating culture to achieve water sensitivity for coastal cities in India. IHE Delft Annual PhD Symposium –  Realising the SDGs: Innovative water solutions to achieve resilience in an uncertain world.

Raquel Hadrich Silva; Dominic Stead; Margreet Zwarteveen and Taneha Bacchin. (25 – 27 November 2021). Bridging Ecological Urbanism and Urban Political Ecology for a new vision of Water Sensitivity in cities. IFoU – 14th Conference of the International Forum on Urbanism.


Navaneeth A

Governance capacities for transforming water data management in secondary cities of India

Supervisor – Dr P S Harikumar, Centre for Water Resources Development and Management, Kozhikode, Kerala

07/2020 – 12/2024

Abstract – Experience from around the world indicates that only rigorous evidence-based decision making can lead to sustainable water management. This, in turn, necessitates the need for a strong foundation of dependable data. However, management of water data is still a major challenge in the fast growing cities of India, which will ultimately result in poor water quality and unequal access of water in such cities. The individual agencies collect and store immense amount of data internally, there is no or insufficient collation and sharing of data which otherwise could prove beneficial. Additionally, the present water governance system promotes a passive role for the citizens with regards to decision making, i.e. citizens are traditionally considered consumers of information services at the very end of the information chain. In this research a governance framework based on the governance capacities identified which will be developed, which shall aid in assessing the state of art and same with this also help to formulate policies and guidelines for water data management in the secondary cities of India with a special focus on water data democratization and citizen participation. Extensive Field visit in Kozhikode and Bhuj were undertaken and more than 40 stakeholders were interviewed from both the cities

Extensive field visit have been conducted in Bhuj and Kozhikode, we interviewed more than 40 stakeholders from both the cities for assessing the governance capacities using the governance framework. The framework will be helpful for improving use and dissemination of water information, with the aim of advancing water policy, planning, management and operations towards water sensitive city.

Research Questions – How different actors can generate and have democratic access to water data and tools/resources. Also, the potential to use this information, to manage water better in a water sensitive city.

Methodology – Detailed literature survey and formulating the conceptual framework was the first phase of the study.Actor mapping, data flow diagram derived helped to identify the data gap and overlapping of Individual specialization. Extensive field visit was conducted in both cities, an ethnographic approach was used involving stakeholders Interviews, focused group discussion for assessing the governance capacities and identifying the conditions for strengthening them. A pilot study is carried out to understand the governance capacity by enabling citizens for data collection. The feedback from the study will help to operationalize the governance capacity for citizen participation.

Expected results – The detailed literature survey and field visit and the city level workshop, helped to understand the ground level water challenges in secondary cities of India. The role of each actor in water data collection in a water data cycle is derived. The governance capacity framework will help assess the state of art of existing water data management in secondary cities. The framework will be helpful for improving water information, with the aim of advancing water policy, planning, management and operations. We can upscale the pilot study conducted by involving citizens in water data collection.

Publications / Conference Proceedings / Presentations –

Navaneeth A., Sreeda P., Vishnumaya T. M., Sanusree P. S., and Harikumar P. S. (2021) Evaluation of the challenges in water governance through citizen ’ s perception and Water Quality Index : a case study of a fast-growing city in India. 4(1), 336–351.

Sruthi K. V.,Navaneeth A and Harikumar P. S. (2023). Assessment of water quality and ecosystem health of a canal system during the lockdown period. Sustainable Water Resources Management, 0, 1–11.

Navaneeth A., Ijhas K., Sreeda P., Sreenanda P., and Harikumar P. S.(2022) Rethinking on Resolving Urban Flooding: Lessons from an Ethnographic Case Study in a Tropical Coastal City of India. Climate Crisis: Adaptive Approaches and Sustainability- Springer, Singapore (Book chapter-under review)

Navaneeth A., Sreeda P., Vishnumaya T. M., Sanusree P. S., and Harikumar P S. (2020) Assessment of surface water quality status using geospatial techniques in Canoli canal, coastal district,Kozhikode Kerala. International Conference on Water Resources (ICWR-CUK) (Conference presentation)

Navaneeth A., Sreeda P., Vishnumaya T. M., Sanusree P. S., and Harikumar P S. (2022, February) An Integrated Citizens Observatory: A Practical Approach from a fast-growing city in India. Kerala Science Congress (Poster Presentation)

Navaneeth A., Sreeda P., Vishnumaya T. M., Sanusree P. S., and Harikumar P S. (2022, June) Understanding the challenges and opportunities in water governance- A case study of an arid city in India. International Conference on Water and Environmental Management (conference presentation)

Navaneeth A., Harikumar P. S., and Surendran U. (2023, January) Need for local level water policies: Lessons from secondary cities of India. International Interdisciplinary  conference on sustainable & adaptive water governance: law and policy (conference presentation)


Kriti Trivedi

Assessment of Household Level Water Sensitivity in Indian Cities: A Behavioural Approach

Supervisor – Prof. Manmohan Kapshe; Prof. Vinay Mohan Das, Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology (MANIT), Bhopal, India

01/2021 – 01/2025 (expected)

Abstract – The constantly aggravating urban water issues demand immediate and effective response in the form of alternate management approaches which are sustainable, integrated, holistic and feature local water managers ‘citizens’ in addition to the city-level service providers such as urban local bodies. It becomes necessary to mainstream and conceptualise the role of citizens as water is a subject that every individual can relate to and act upon at various levels. The concept of water-sensitive cities offers multiple benefits associated with liveability, sustainability and resilience through a city’s water management framework. It comprises of water-sensitive communities that display water-conscious behaviours and are receptive to an ecologically sustainable lifestyle. Communities and individual behaviours play a significant role in influencing water-sensitive outcomes. The study aims to conceptualise the role of water users in dealing with city-specific water issues. It focuses on the user-water interaction at the household level to assess the extent of citizens’ water sensitivity. While diverting the focus from the conventional ways of supply-centric water management approaches the study looks at water behaviours at the individual level from a demand management side that helps to strike a balance in the water system and make cities more adaptive, resilient and equitable. Such behavioural tendencies are further complimented by constant social motivation, environmental awareness, opportunities and avenues to act in the form of capabilities for the citizens to increase their chances to display water-sensitive behaviours for a longer period without compromising their willingness. The study also identifies the key characteristics of water-sensitive behaviour and analyses the influencing factors of such behaviours and the necessary conditions/ choices in the form of capabilities. The extent of presence or absence of these identified elements helps in determining the user-level water sensitivity. In this study, the holistic set of city-level secondary data combined with the stakeholder and users’ perceptions is analysed to assess the current level of water sensitivity among the users. The study output aims at delivering a methodology for conducting the assessment of users across the city by using a behavioural approach. The methodology can be used by decisions makers to obtain more targeted and tailored insight to guide citizens’ behaviours by making necessary alterations to the existing institutional and infrastructural setup for transitioning from conventional to water-sensitive practices.

Research Questions –

What is meant by Water Sensitivity of Users at household level and what are its features in the Indian context?

What influences the users’ water sensitivity in the form of factors and capabilities and their interrelationships?

How to assess the level of Water Sensitivity across the city?

Methodology – The study comprises of literature review on social psychology of environmentalism linked with scholarship on water-sensitive cities to understand positive water behaviour of ‘users’ at household level and their level of water sensitivity. For a realistic and contextual understanding of the concept for the Indian context, inputs from the stakeholders (through workshops and city visits) and their perspectives are also taken into account for the conceptualisation. The study also identifies the key characteristics of such behaviour or the actions displayed in the form of ‘positive water behaviours’ and case city-specific set of ‘influencing factors’ and ‘capabilities’ through an extensive literature review, expert opinions and primary survey to ensure incorporation of users’ perception. The basis for the assessment of water sensitivity of users at the household level will be the associated three elements, the presence of behaviour, influencing factors and capabilities and the resultant positive water behaviour. The data & insights thus obtained will be quantified and analysed using the appropriate techniques to identify prominent factors and capabilities for the case city and establish their interrelationships for the assessment of water sensitivity across the city.

Expected results – The study aims at developing a methodology as a tool for assessing the level of water sensitivity of users at the household level. The methodology with its universal applicability can be used for any city. The identified set of factors, capabilities and the resultant water behaviours in the current study can be taken up as the base for the assessment of the case study with some minor modifications in the feeding dataset based on the city’s physical and social characteristics. The developed methodology is likely to facilitate the decision-makers in understanding the existing status of user-level water sensitivity and existing water-related scenarios in the city thus enabling them to identify targeted and contextual ways to deal with city-specific water challenges. It will also enable a shift from the conventional ways of supply-centric water management approaches to demand as the study also identifies the key factors and capabilities that influence water-sensitive behaviour at an individual level as a solution towards combating issues posed by climate change impacts. Incorporation of study-based insights and adoption of strategic and fit-for-purpose measures are expected to enable the transitions towards Water Sensitive Cities in long term.

Publications / Conference Proceedings / Presentations –

Trivedi K., Kapshe M., Das V. M. and Bade S., (2023). Groundwater Pricing Strategies for Indian cities: A case of Kanpur. Urban Water Journal [Submitted]

Trivedi K., (2022, November 01 – 05). Role of Water Sensitive Behaviour at Household Level towards Climate Change adaptation in Indian cities [Paper presentation]. 7th India Water Week 2022, Delhi, India

Trivedi K., (2022, November 01 – 05). Groundwater Pricing strategies as a tool for Groundwater Management: Case of Kanpur city, India [Paper presentation]. 7th India Water Week 2022, Delhi, India

Trivedi K., Singh S. and Vyas D., (2022, March 02 – 04). Role of Water Literacy for Urban Water Management in Indian context. Roorkee Water Conclave. [Conference presentation]