Talk • Policy Thrust and Policy Process of ‘Agenda 24×7 Water Supply’ in India

August 23, 2023 @ 4:45 PM - 6:00 PM
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Abstract: In developing countries such as India, the provision of water supply through pipes remains intermittent and unequal, ranging from 30 minutes to 12 hours per day. These disparities in water distribution highlight the pressing need for equitable and reliable water access for all residents in cities as well as rural areas. The complexities of water management, regarded as a “Wicked” problem, necessitates a deeper understanding of societal and political factors before devising effective public policies. While a direct transition to a 24×7 continuous water supply system may seem appealing, it poses cascading effects with severe socioeconomic implications for lower to middle-income households, particularly regarding affordability. Existing frameworks and guidelines often provide immediate solutions to the drinking water crisis without comprehending the socio-economic-institutional-political nexus of the country. A 24×7 piped Water Supply System proves financially unsustainable due to high Operation and Maintenance (O&M) costs, even in developed countries, as shown by the recent case of Thames Water in the United Kingdom.

Furthermore, relying solely on 24×7 piped Water Supply Systems may not address the emerging contaminants and supply/network failures due to extreme events, leading to residents relying on household water filters and other arrangements. However, these technologies are not economically viable for individuals below the poverty line, leading to cognitive and financial stress. To achieve social justice of equity, accessibility, and affordability, alternative water provisioning methods should be delved into to cater to all sections of society. Improving Intermittent Water Supply presents itself as an appropriate and affordable option. Proactive measures and effective governance frameworks can mitigate some of the drawbacks of Intermittent Water Supply.

In this context of infrastructure creation, the debate on whether the system should be centralized or decentralized also arises. Centralized systems are more vulnerable to extreme events and may lack alternate water supply arrangements, causing severe inconvenience. In contrast, decentralized systems have lower capital costs and have many other operational benefits. Futuristic water infrastructure should prioritize appropriately Scaled Decentralized Systems for sustainable and resilient outcomes. Hence, a suitable approach for the provisioning of water supply lies in understanding the socioeconomic contexts, institutions, and political dynamics of a given locality, and it essentially varies from a case-to-case basis.

Speaker: Dr Pradip Kalbar was awarded PhD in Environmental Science and Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB), Mumbai. Presently, he works as Associate Professor at the Centre for Urban Science and Engineering (CUSE) at IITB. Prior to joining IITB as faculty, Pradip worked for two years as a postdoctoral researcher at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU).

He has received prestigious awards such as “Excellence in PhD Thesis Award 2014” from IIT Bombay, Young Faculty Award 2016, IIT Bombay, “Early Research Achiever Award 2019” from IIT Bombay and “PRISMA – Sustainability Assessment and Policy Award -2020”.

Dr Kalbar has published several scientific papers in peer-reviewed international journals and conferences. Recently, interventions based on his work for improving water supply in India are recommended by the Ministry of Jal Shakti for implementation in all the states. He also has wide industrial and consulting experience in the area of the water sector. He was the Member of the Technical Advisory Committee for Water Supply of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) and a member of the management committee of the International Water Association’s Specialist Group on Intermittent Water Supply. He is a member of IWA. Dr Kalbar is also the Editor of the Water Reuse journal (IWA Publishing). Recently he has set up a start-up company to provide appropriate solutions for water supply systems in India.


August 23, 2023
4:45 PM - 6:00 PM
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ADCPS Conference Room
Old CSE Building, IIT Bombay
Mumbai, Maharashtra 400076 India
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