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Building resilience by empowering poor urban communities to safeguard and manage a range of ecosystem services provided by wetlands (12/22)

Local slum community empowered to rehabilitate a degraded wetland and manage it sustainably for the ecosystem services it provides.

Photo of Priyanie Amerasinghe

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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

Most slum communities do not have access to a clean source of water. Our idea is aimed at the restoration of polluted small green infrastructures (wetlands) in urban and peri-urban areas so that the slum communities will have access to the multiple ecosystem services (ES) that the wetlands provide. The multiple ecosystem services are, flood protection, groundwater recharge, regulation of water pollution that will support communities during extreme weather events as well as day to day activities, household food production. Our overarching idea is to demonstrate how community groups can be empowered to manage urban/peri-urban wetlands, so that its multiple services can serve the community, help derive economic benefits. The basic elements in the idea involve, science-based understanding of restoration and inclusive management system that empowers communities to manage their “own” wetlands with economic benefits. We will conduct 1. Science-based assessments of ecosystem functions of wetlands (flood and pollution protection, ground water recharge etc.) to help plan restoration activities. 2. Participatory action planning for restoration and management of wetlands together with local authorities and communities for implementation. The work will be carried out by the International Water Management Institute in partnership with community members, local authorities and SAFE an development NGO in Kolkata. Identified slum is Kalikapur in West Bengal, India. Details at IWMI attachment

WHO BENEFITS?

We will carry out the work at the Kalikapur slum in the city of Kolkata, West Bengal, India. Main beneficiary groups are urban and peri- urban slum communities who engage in the use of wetlands for economic activities. The wetlands are being lost, heavily polluted and have no attention from authorities. Restoration of ecosystem services will create new opportunities for a number of economic activities, if a an innovative institutional model is developed for community empowerment.

HOW DOES YOUR IDEA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONTEXT OF URBAN SLUMS AND CLIMATE CHANGE?

The idea we present connects with institutions that have a direct and indirect stake in providing basic services to slum communities, and welcome innovations of support. The Municipalities and Slum Development Authority, are directly responsible for the provision of basic amenities to an ever growing population of migrants, who contribute to the economic processes in a city in multiple ways. The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF), has a responsibility to maintain and manage the wetlands, which is receiving less attention currently. The NGO, SAFE has prior experience in community facilitation and climate change adaptation implementation programs, which is linked to a Corporate Social Responsibility programs of institutions. We will work in the same slum that has the experience of forming cooperative groups to implement the idea. The institutional model however will be different. Science based assessment will be used to develop a climate resilient wetland management plan. A socio-ecological approach will address gender and flexibility aspects to create an “environmental consciousness” that will help fine tune the adaptive capacities of communities to respond to extreme weather events. The idea will look at multiple ecosystem services, like flood protection, groundwater recharge, pollution control, create habitats for bio-diversity impacting a larger urban landscape, while resolving an acute problem the communities face on a day to day basis – a clean source water supply from an underutilized natural resource. More in IWMI attachment.

IN-COUNTRY EXPERIENCE

  • Yes, for two or more years

EXPERTISE

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for at least two years

GEOGRAPHIC FOCUS

  • Yes

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF

Priyanie Amerasinghe is a Senior Researcher attached to IWMI (Hyderabad office, India), and engage in research on ecosystem health, natural resource management and poverty alleviation. Matthew McCartney Principal Researcher and team member, has been studying wetlands and its wise-use for many years.

IS THIS A NEW OR RECENT IDEA FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION? HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM WHAT YOU ARE ALREADY DOING?

IWMI promotes the wise-use of wetlands, and is a member of the Ramsar panel of specialists. This is not a brand new idea. We have been looking at the larger hydrological connectivity of the wetlands of Kolkata, and monitoring the losses. During the process, we realized that no one is responsible for the existing wetlands and as such, are becoming either degraded or lost to other activities. We are working with an NGO who is engaging with the slum communities on WASH activities, and have been discussing the idea of facilitating the empowerment of management. So it is directly linked to our mandate and considerable thought has gone into it. We thought the call was timely to implement it.

HOW IS YOUR IDEA DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SIMILAR INITIATIVES? WHAT ARE YOU DOING DIFFERENTLY? WHAT UNIQUE ADVANTAGES DO YOU HAVE?

Within the city of Kolkata, we have not heard of an initiative that is aimed at empowering the slum communities to manage small wetlands, through a science-based approach. These urban wetlands are polluted and neglected but are being used by slum dwellers. Their management has low priority in the governmental development agenda. By coupling the needs of communities with new initiatives of the slum authorities, this idea seizes an opportunity to build community resilience to restore wetlands and its functions that will have far reaching consequences for the community at large and the environment. By empowering the community to manage, their adaptive capacities to climate change are enhanced, and a new type of governance mechanism that involves people and the government will be tested for the first time related to wetlands. We have a community that is already receptive to the idea, and is organized to a limited extent for other types of activities. The features that stand out are: Enhanced community resilience for CC impacts, wetland restoration and management which has ecological significance, supports municipal utility services, reducing pressure to find sources of water supply.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR IDEA?

The slum dweller community comprises a mixed group (religions, minority groups), that would not live together under normal circumstances. In addition, there is a floating population that visit the slum but do not live there permanently. We will need these groups, as well as women and men, to work together in a cooperative fashion. A key question is what is the best way to bring them together? To be successful, ideally there would be a government champion to see the program through and to push the ideas within the government bureaucracy. Who will this be? Finally, hydrology ensures that wetlands are dynamic systems. A key question is how does the wetland change between seasons and years?

WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?

Urban and peri-urban wetlands are a neglected natural resource. However, these are "functional commons" exploited by people, but are not managed. Despite the growing body of evidence that cities, and their citizens, derive benefits from wetlands, including the moderation of peak air temperatures, improvement of air quality, protection from storm surges and flooding, cleaning of polluted waste water discharges, provision of food and the opportunities for recreation and education, often these benefits are poorly integrated into urban planning and management decision-making. A good institutional model that encompasses empowerment of communities will be a milestone in urban planning.

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BASED ON FEEDBACK FROM YOUR COMMUNITY?

Between 16 and 19 November, 2015, we (IWMI and the South Asian Forum for Environment - SAFE) had focus group discussions with different groups (women and men) of slum dwellers from 4 wetlands. The key questions were 1. How did they use the wetlands - economic benefits ? 2. What are the multiple services wetlands provide? These were posed to understand if they felt the restoration of wetlands was worthwhile. IWMI identified the wetlands using satellite imagery. SAFE is working with the communities to promote livelihood activities and sanitation awareness. The local community recognized two types of wetlands. First, Bheries, wetlands that were used primarily for fish culture. Second, small wetlands used for all types of domestic purposes. While the basic idea remained the same, we realized that not all users of wetlands were interested. For example, those who had access to a municipal water supply were less keen. Those associated with fish culture wetlands were happy if they could have access to a restored wetland. Small wetland users were keener on the idea, as they had no safe water supply. The community wanted a larger sensitization and awareness building activity to bring the groups together. They had ideas for prevention of pollution and who should be involved from the government. A key question for them is “Who will fund the activity?” We realized that the process of engagement needs to be more innovative to bring a larger more disparate group together.

WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?

We would like to see the wetlands restored, and community-managed in a way that brings benefits to both people and nature and adds to community resilience in the face of climate change. We hope that such a model can be up-scaled up throughout the city, to involve a larger groups of slum dwellers and extend the green-infrastructure development. The next steps are to carry-out a situation analysis, identify the roles and responsibilities of the key players and institutions, recognize the incentives for beneficiary participation, identify internal funding sources and their accessibility for immediate use, and capacity building needs, the methodologies for scientific investigations.

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What type of activities will be funded through this call? Can some amounts used for activities planned by the communities?

How does your idea connect to the broader system of the city where you plan to implement?

An institutional analysis revealed the connectivity to the broader urban system/s and the key linkage points. The main institutions were, Municipality (utility services); Slum Development Authority (livelihood initiatives); Community development agents - SAFE (NGO partner), and - Ministry of Forests and Environment (Natural Resources System - Wetland linkages to the urban watershed hydrological cycle); The dialogues/meetings were facilitated by SAFE who has helped to establish a solar powered drinking water treatment plant in the selected slum and has been up-scaling such systems elsewhere. Beneficiary engagement was inspired by SAFE’s bio-rights work in the wetlands (see Figure 1 in attachment). Developing a workable institutional arrangement is key to the sustainability of the idea being implemented. With this, the community will become part of the broader institutional mechanisms and processes contributing to a larger mandate and becoming productive citizens.
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Team (2)

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Role added on team:

"IWMI team - Matthew McCartney (hydro-ecologist and ecosystem services specialist), Farah Ahmed (Uptake specialist); NGO-SAFE (Kolkata) West Bengal) - Dr Dipayan Dey (environmentalist and slum community development; Kalikapur slum community - Chandana - community leader for joint liabilities group; Municipality - Commissioner (utility services), Slum Development Authority - Commissioner (initiatives for slum Development); Ministry of Environment and Forests - Wetland conservation division."

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Attachments (4)

Final Feed back form.pdf

We visited 4 slum communities associated with wetlands, and not all were interested in the ecosystem services concept. The primary concern was drinking water, and then for other purposes. Two slums saw the economic value in the wetland restoration and were confident that with institutional support and guidance it was doable. They admitted that formation of community groups and capacity building was important.

2. IWMI Attchment_ GRP Call2015submitted.docx

This attachments describes some of the details on how the idea will be developed into a proposal for implementation. The key outputs are identified.

3. Final_Prototyping worksheet word.pdf.pdf

The prototyping worksheet describes the different key questions that arose during the idea development, and how they can be addressed if the idea is to be developed into a fully fledged project. The institutional arrangements and programs indicated that there are funds that can be tapped for community mobilization and development. Aligning CSR funds can have added benefits.

2. Final_ Experience Map_Final.pdf

The experience map shares the different scenarios associated with the community empowerment for wetland restoration. It illustrates the current status where the wetland is utilized for many purposes but its resources management is not with any institution. The gradual decline in wetlands has made areas vulnerable for floods, despite water availability made the ground water polluted and unavailable for human consumption.

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Photo of Chiranjeet
Team

Dear Madam

Since our organization, SAFE, is part of the team, I am sharing my thoughts. It is important to tell that we were able to engage with the community at the idea phase. We were able to capture their interest and connect with the existing systems they have for the drinking water (water treatment plant, solar plant, biogas plant and bio-sanitation units). They were not aware that the wetland was the feeder source for the drinking water supply. For maintaining the drinking water plant, they participate in decision making system, awareness camps, health camps and sensitization sessions. This informal interaction is formalized with the formation of ‘Joint Liability’ groups those are bank linked. They take membership for using the facility, pay service charges for maintenance and the JLGs lead them for a sustainable process. It is community governance in entirety. The main motivation is the at-hand facility, basic amenities like water energy and sanitation. They recover free time for alternative livelihood as they are no more wasting it in queuing for water.

The model being sustainable revenue linked model, funding can be sought from the government through various slum development schemes through credit linkages of these JLGs. Otherwise also, CSR funding window works well for this. In Kolkata HSBC has supported the drinking water units in 6 slums, while the World Bank adopted this for northeastern India. Most recently, the Indian government has committed new-energy and sanitation for urban poor in their INDC. So supports can be expected from such central schemes of development too. Bringing the community together to manage it, is a novel idea to an existing community of practice looking into safeguarding the commons. Wetlands would be the centre of this intervention hub. The beneficiaries are already dependent on these wetlands for their ecosystem services, further sensitization and awareness building would enable them to understand why they should be an integral part of the conservation of the water bodies and ponds. It is in the central tenet of their livelihood.
Your intervention on family agrofarming with the waste water adds on to the ‘food security and nutritional reliance’ aspect for the urban poor. This is perfectly aligned with the national mission on food security. Also, this would bring a new focus to the wetland conservation policy in urban India, which is barely wanted now.

Wish you the best.

Chiranjeet Chatterjee
Director (Programmes), SAFE

Photo of Priyanie Amerasinghe
Team

Thank you for the pointers on funding. This is an important part of launching such projects. Having an NGO like yours on the ground to offer facilitation is a bonus too. thank you for the value addition.

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