Indo-UK events bring together policy makers, practitioners and scientists to discuss the way forward for water resources research and management in Central India

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The India-UK Water Centre (IUKWC) is convening the latest in its series of User Engagement Initiatives and Grassroots Field Exposure Sessions in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh between 25th February and 2nd March 2019. These international events are focusing on the supply and management of water resources in Central India and are being hosted by the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Bhopal.

Dr Pankaj Kumar from IISER Bhopal, who co-led the events, commented that, “These events are very timely in light of the changing climatic conditions that Madhya Pradesh is experiencing, which have strong implications for crop production and water resources management. Future climate scenarios imply increases in intense storms and generalised warming across the state. We have already experienced disruption last year when near-drought conditions prevailed that resulted in widespread water scarcity; this could be exacerbated by the predicted higher than average summer temperatures this year. Hence, it is imperative that policy and practice be informed by strong science that is geared towards the end-user”.

The three-day User Engagement Initiative has brought together over twenty scientists and about thirty stakeholders from the government (State, Regional and National) and NGO sectors, as well as academic organisations based in Central India. The event has enabled discussions on the challenges and needs of water resource managers and provided researchers an opportunity to share outputs from recent joint Indo-UK science that could be used to support water resource management and security in the region.

Event co-lead Dr Sumit Sinha from the University of Leeds in the UK, said, “The User Engagement Initiative has witnessed a good mix of talks from both scientists and stakeholders. A key recurring issue for water managers is groundwater conservation. In Central India, there has been good progress on data collection, however there is now need to develop a scientifically sound decision support system for the management of groundwater resources, which could take the form of a holistic groundwater model; one of the many key areas that science can help.”

The Grassroots Field Exposure Session, which took place over three days, brought together a team of twenty four scientists from across the UK and India, who were given the opportunity to gain a closer perspective of the management of water at ground level.

A series of field visits were organised that were aimed to help participants understand the impacts of energy, agriculture and abstraction on ground and surface water quantity and quality in the region. The team of scientists were exposed to grassroots-level interventions that centred around improving land and water management including a collaborative project between ICAR, the Indian Institute of Soil Science and local farmers on organic farming and vermiculture in Parwahlia and the Rajiv Gandhi Mission for Watershed Management project, in partnership with farmers, ITC Ltd and Samarthan, to enhance water infiltration through use of farm bunds and ponds for the protection of the Bhojtal catchment in Sehore. A private-public partnership in Bavai Kalan that gives farmers access to training, markets and improved horticulture production methodologies, aimed at improving livelihoods, was also visited. The project involves local farmers, Neer Horticulture Solutions, and the Department of Horticulture. At the Indira Sagar Project, the Narmada Hydroelectric Development Corporation provided an in-depth overview of the operations and management of the water reservoir, irrigation canal system, and power plant.

Event co-lead Dr Alexandre Gagnon of Liverpool John Moores University in the UK commented that, “The event has given impetus to the need for water research to take a multi-sectoral, multi-disciplinary approach to gathering knowledge, developing tools, and providing guidance to policy makers and water users who are faced with balancing growing water demands and impacts of climate change, against the need for environmentally sustainability water management”.

Dr A. K. Sahai, the Indian Coordinator of the IUKWC, from the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology commented on the participation at the events saying, “We have had over eighty delegates in attendance over the past six days, spanning from the Madhya Pradesh government, local academic institutions, NGOs, and farmers to scientists from both India and UK. We are pleased to have had such diverse and active participation at both events”.

Professor Harry Dixon, the UK Coordinator of the IUKWC, from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology said, “The events this week in Madhya Pradesh have been focused on closing the gap between research and practice in the water sector. Through these events the India-UK Water Centre aims to highlight the potential benefits for water managers of incorporating the latest research findings into their policies and operational practices, capitalising on the significant investments in joint water science by India and the UK in recent years. We also aim to promote the co-design of future science projects by researchers and stakeholders, so that such endeavours provide direct benefits for those faced with ensuring the sustainable management of water in this part of Central India”.

Workshop organisers:

The events were organised by: Dr Pankaj Kumar (Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Bhopal), Dr Sumit Sinha (University of Leeds) and Dr Alexandre Gagnon (Liverpool John Moores University) and the IUKWC coordinators, Prof. Harry Dixon (Centre for Ecology & Hydrology) and Dr A.K. Sahai (Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology).

Event Participants:

The scientific team involved representatives from the University of Exeter, University of the West of England, Loughborough University, University of Dundee, Cranfield University, University of Plymouth, Herriot Watt University, and Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. Academic organisations from India included, Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, National Institute of Hydrology, Roorkee, Amity University, Symbiosis International (Deemed University), National Institute of Technology, Karnataka, Jamia Millia Islamia (A Central University), TERI School of Advanced Studies, Development Alternatives Group, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Bhopal, and Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology.

Academic and research institutions invited to the User Engagement Initiative included Madhya Pradesh Centre of Science and Technology, Indian Institute of Forest Management, Banaras Hindu University, ICAR, Indian Institute of Soil Science, and the Water and Land Management Institute. Stakeholders included Madhya Pradesh Jal Nigam, Madhya Pradesh Public Health Engineering Department, Rajiv Gandhi Mission for Watershed Management, Central Ground Water Board, Narmada Hydroelectric Development Corporation, Madhya Pradesh Water Resources Department, Madhya Pradesh Forest Department, Department of Horticulture, National Water Development Agency, Towards Action & Learning (TAAL), The Environmental Planning and Coordination Organisation, Samarthan, Neer Horticulture Solutions Pvt. Ltd., ITC Ltd., Centre for Advanced Research and Development and WaterAid.