ATREE Interdisciplinary Summer School in Water and Society June 15th-27th, 2015 at Bangalore

A Summer School in Water and Society was held at ATREE from June 15-26, 2015.

Application Process
The summer school advertisement was widely circulated 6 months ahead of time to various universities, through talks given at TERI University, IIT Madras, IIT Mumbai, TISS etc. by the PIs as well as through ads in the Indian journals Current Science and Economic and Political Weekly.
Out of a strong pool of 105 applicants, 25 applicants were chosen and 23 attended the school (there were two last minute drop outs due to illness). Of these 8 were natural scientists, 11 were social scientists and 4 had interdisciplinary backgrounds.

Objective of Summer School
The objective of the summer school was to build research capacity in interdisciplinary approaches to water issues in early career researchers. Specifically, to help researchers fill lacunae and bridge intellectual disciplinary and research-practice barriers.

Approach of Summer School
The summer school began with an excellent overview on the water sector by R. Vishwanath of Biome Environmental Solutions. The third day of the summer school included a invitation to a Hasiru Habba (or green fair) concert and programme including a moderated discussion on Bengaluru’s water and dinner at a local organic restaurant and store.

The school included main four capacity-building components.

  1. Common foundation and core concepts:
    Over the first few days of the summer school, students were exposed to core concepts covering the main factors that impact water availability and water quality. The intensive lecture based component was designed to help students achieve a common vocabulary in all aspects of water and society. The course work started and ended with two interdisciplinary sessions.

    The first session covered basic introduction to interdisciplinarity and the value-laden nature of research. This was followed by lectures covering each of the following factors: Hydrology and Climate, Fate and transport of contaminants, Technology and Demography, Economics, Social and Political factors and Institutions. The final interdisciplinary theory session covered assessment methods – tools such as risk assessment, multi-criteria analyses or cost-benefit analyses that might be draw on multiple disciplines to make decisions.

  2. Interdisciplinary case studies:
    Following this students were exposed to three case studies in water to help them understand how a problem-driven research question might actually be answered.
    There were three case studies by Himanshu Thakkar (groundwater in Madhya Pradesh), Veena Srinivasan (urban water in Chennai) and Priyanie Amerasinge (water pollution in the Musi River Basin).
  3. Field trips:
    Two day-long field trips were undertaken.

    Field Trip 1: Jakkur Lake and TG Halli Catchment
    Students were taken to Jakkur Lake and Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) near ATREE widely purported to be a “model lake”. Here they were exposed to the workings of STPs as well as the wider problem of Bangalore’s lakes.
    Next, we visited the Aralmallige watershed. The students saw the weather station, one of the check dams we are monitoring and a tank. For many students, this was their first exposure to actual watershed features. The students also enjoyed a one-on-one interaction with Mr. Mallesh the President of the Aralmallige Gram Panchayat.
    Finally, we visited TG Halli Reservoir. Here the students got to see first-hand, the problems of decline in inflows and water quality deterioration of the reservoir.

    Field Trip 2: Peenya Industrial Area and Byramangala

    The purpose of field visit was to increase awareness among students about the problems related to water pollution as a result of rapid urbanization/industrialization. Students were taken to the Vrishabhavathy stream which originates from Bangalore city and receives effluents from industrial and domestic sources. Though most students grew up in urban areas, many were seeing the scale of water pollution problems in cities for the first time.
    Next we visited Byranmangla tank which receives wastewater from Bangalore city. The Byramangala tank water is used by downstream farmers for irrigation. The students were taken around the peri urban villages to observe impact of urban wastewater flows on peri urban villages.

  4. Working in interdisciplinary research groups
    The final component involved students working in interdisciplinary teams, to develop a problem driven research proposal. The 3-day team-work (assisted and facilitated by the four faculty) culminated in a 20 min proposal presentation on the last day. The 23 students were divided into six groups.

    This “learning by doing” component was a new experiment for us and overall, we believe it was successful. All six groups far exceeded our expectations.
    The following topics were covered:
    Group A: Irrigation efficiency in Tamil Nadu - impacts and trade-offs from field to basin scale
    Group B: Finding solutions for effective groundwater regulation
    Group C: Causes and impacts of crop failure in Cauvery delta.
    Group D: Possible impacts of new groundwater deregulation law in West Bengal.
    Group E: Can Decentralised wastewater reuse solve Delhi's water problem?
    Group F: Effectiveness of lake conservation efforts on water quality in Bengaluru lakes