Groundwater and Sanitation nexus in Peri-Urban Small Towns of Bangalore

Duration: February 1, 2017 – January 31, 2018

Funder: Arghyam

PI: Durba Biswas

Co-Investigator: Priyanka Jamwal

Research Assistant: Mr D S Kumar, Chandan Gowda

Lab Analyst: Praveen Kumar

One of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to provide universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation for all by 2030. However, in peri-urban towns of India, achieving these goals present some unique challenges. In peri-urban habitations, government agencies meet drinking water demand by supplying groundwater. This is particularly alarming in those areas where households depend largely on soak-pits to dispose fecal waste. For example, under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, there has been a huge effort to provide toilets to households with the aim of reducing or even eliminating open defecation and thereby controlling surface water contamination. However, there is little discussion on the design of the sanitation infrastructure. Various studies have shown that the disposal of fecal matter locally (without proper sewage system of lined pits) could lead to chemical and biological contamination of groundwater source. Therefore, supplying groundwater for domestic use and building toilets can help government agencies to achieve their water supply and sanitation goals but attainment of SGD under this scenario remains questionable.

The present system of on-site sanitation systems (OSS) and domestic water access (groundwater) in the peri-urban areas are considered ‘transient’ in nature at policy levels; where the long term goal is to move towards underground sewage networks and piped domestic water connections for households. However, on the ground, households have adapted to groundwater for domestic use and OSS and there is possibility of managing the current system as a long term solution (as opposed to transient solution) to meet sanitation and domestic water requirements of peri-urban spaces. The current study argues that maintaining and managing the current system of sanitation and domestic water access in peri-urban spaces can be a viable alternative to the potentially costly shift to underground sewerage networks and piped connections. Hence, the specific aim of the study is to assess the current status of groundwater-sanitation nexus and identify specific policy suggestion which can achieve source protection of ground and surface water through sanitation and drinking water interventions. This becomes important if the long term sustainability of the current system is to be achieved. The policy interventions should be designed with the objective of achieving source protection.

In rapidly urbanizing peri-urban areas, Groundwater contamination is caused (in different degrees) by multiple sources such as animal waste disposal points, grey water accumulation ponds, soak pits and past fertilizer use. In areas where groundwater is the only source of domestic water, contamination of groundwater can have adverse impact on the people. Based on their socio-economic condition, levels of awareness, location of the households in relation to other water and sanitation infrastructures and perceptions and beliefs about sanitation and domestic water, households undertake various measures to cope with the impacts of contaminated domestic water. The present study is located in Nelamangala, Bangalore Rural.

Research objective 1: To assess the extent of groundwater and surface water contamination and to examine their interlinkages.

Research objective 2: To assess the contribution of Agriculture, livestock, OSS, and waste disposal on groundwater contamination.

Research objective 3: To assess the OSS choice behavior and to assess the coping strategies of the households.

Research Framework for Groundwater-Sanitation linkage