Study spotlights struggle for water in city peripheral areas

Water board’s failure leading to creation of small-time operators who are minting money

Buying store-bought mineral water bottles, installing Reverse-Osmosis filters at homes and using piped water for non-consumption uses are some of the coping mechanisms that residents in peri-urban areas of Hyderabad are using to keep themselves safe. This has been found in a new study titled ‘Digging Deeper: Deep Wells, Bore-Wells and Water Tankers in Peri-Urban Hyderabad’. The paper explores inequity in the supply of water for domestic use in areas on the periphery of the city that are rapidly urbanising.

Using ethnographic fieldwork in Nanakramguda and Madhapur areas in the western part of Hyderabad, the authors interviewed residents both local and migrants; and economically well-off and low-income communities to reach the conclusion.

“This has brought about inequality in access to water for agriculture and other domestic uses in Hyderabad’s peri-urban areas. Villagers are losing out on water access to the more powerful and well-off middle-class population residing in the urban core and to the powerful economic actors involved in peri-urban expansion,” say Nathaniel Dylan Lim and Diganta Das in their paper as they see an exacerbation of water-related issues.

“The ‘water-money nexus’ enables inhabitants from middle-upper social classes to attain water security by successfully negotiating their water access amid Hyderabad’s water crises, thus creating greater water security for themselves,” the paper says as it posits high-rises with their 24-hour water supply and zinc-sheet tenements with intermittent water supply.

The paper explores how the explosive growth of Hyderabad has impacted the surrounding areas where land that was used for agriculture, or pasture land and forests has been encroached and urbanised at a rapid pace. They link the growth to water inequality impacting water stress and insecurity for villages in the surrounding areas.

The water inequality with public infrastructure not keeping pace with the demand is creating a cycle leading to incessant exploitation of groundwater affecting the quality of water well as the regenerative capacity of groundwater aquifers.

The study also found that the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board has not been able to keep pace with the demand in water supply leading to creation of small-time operators minting money.

“Despite the municipality’s intervention to ensure adequate water supply to these urban spaces, some inhabitants who live within these spaces still do not benefit from these facilities. Specifically, several water-related issues are still prevalent even within the urban built-up area of Cyberabad district,” says the paper.

(The full paper can be accessed at: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-79035-6_5)

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