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Focus on flooding and groundwater, Govt plans to revive stepwells, borewells

Jaipur among 10 cities chosen for pilot

Written by Damini Nath I Updated: July 16, 2023 03:40 IST

First published on: 16-07-2023 at 02:10 IST



The stepwell at Senapati Hanuman Mandir in Gwalior, which will be restored under the project. (Image source: National Institute of Urban Affairs)
The stepwell at Senapati Hanuman Mandir in Gwalior,

IN A unique pilot project under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) 2.0, 10 cities across the country are getting ready to revive defunct borewells, neglected heritage stepwells and other shallow aquifers in a pilot project to recharge the groundwater as well as mitigate flooding.

According to officials of the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, which runs AMRUT 2.0, the pilot is expected to be on the ground by the end of this year or early 2024.

The cities — Jaipur, Gwalior, Dhanbad, Kolkata, Rajkot, Thane, Pune, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai — were selected due to their historical dependence on shallow aquifer systems and the local urban bodies’ interest in implementing the project, a ministry source said.

While Indian cities depend on surface water supply, like rivers, about 40 per cent of the supply comes from groundwater, the level of which is fast depleting and needs to be recharged, said Dr Uday Bhonde, a senior programme specialist with the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA), which, along with not-for-profit ACWADAM and Biome Environmental Solutions, is a technical partner for the project. In fact, the United Nations World Water Development Report 2022 said India was the “largest groundwater user globally”.

“Water scarcity as well as the flooding situation can be addressed by recharging the groundwater. Our objective is to sensitise the urban local bodies’ officials and to demonstrate with different interventions that we can improve the groundwater table,” said Dr Bhonde.

Ranging from 3 metres to 5 metres in depth, the shallow aquifers can be recharged relatively quicker, and by using less energy, compared to the deeper ones, he said. Once recharged, the water can be used by the local communities. Informal settlements tend to rely on shallow aquifers for water supply, he said.


He said sensors would be installed at these locations to measure the level of groundwater before and after the interventions. Each city would be given Rs 20 lakh for the project, and five locations each have been selected. The process of signing tripartite agreements with the city, NIUA and a local partner agency is currently on, after which the tenders will be floated. By October, some of the projects would start to be implemented, said Dr Bhonde.


The city-specific projects include the revival of the Mohammadwadi stepwell and stabilization of the Dhayari Pond’s banks in Pune; restoration of Bengaluru’s heritage well at Avalahalli; restoration of the open well at Janak Tal and stepwell at Senapati Hanuman Mandir in Gwalior; repair of a stepwell at Jhut Ki Bawari and construction of a pipeline in Jaipur. New rainwater harvesting systems and recharge pits are also a part of the proposed interventions by cities.

NIUA director Hitesh Vaidya said the project is an attempt to revive the “inherited resources” of cities. “The heritage stepwells, borewells and water bodies that had been forgotten are being revived in this innovative project,” he said.


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