Rivers and cities: exploring their complex water-risk and its governance

Congrats to OWN DPhil student Safa Fanaian who has recently secured a National Geographic Explorer grant for 10,200$. This grant will contribute towards her fieldwork to build a basic understanding of the network of actors involved in governing water-risks of her case study of India’s Guwahati City and its rivers. This information can provide valid insights to improve responses to water risks. The grant will also include participatory mapping of projections and perceived probabilities for improvement through a workshop carried out with relevant stakeholders in Guwahati. This process will collect recommendations and perceptions of the involved actors for how the governance system can evolve in the future.

What sorts of challenges will Safa explore related to urban water governance? Rivers running through cities in India have become open drains filled with plastic and dark murky waters. India has more than 100 riverine cities. Governing the risks that emerge from the connection between cities and rivers is complex. Because rivers flow beyond city jurisdictions, not only local city departments but also other actors like national departments and interest groups are involved in governance processes. Coordination among various departments and agencies in cities is perceived as one of the biggest challenges to address water risks.

Safa’s DPhil research seeks to identify frameworks and relevant methods that allow context-specific approaches to understand and improve water risk governance for a riverine city in India. Guwahati was chosen as her case study because it is the physical gateway to the North-Eastern part of India and emblematic of growing urbanization on Brahmaputra River. The water risks under examination for Guwahati City and its rivers are linked to the incoming and outgoing waters. They include urban floods, domestic water supply, and waste-water released into rivers.

 

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