Framework guides effort to rapidly restore water bodies

Location: Chennai, India

Population: 8,653,521 (metropolitan area)

Climate: tropical wet and dry

Duration: 2015/2016 – currently

Sector: Water

Funding sources: Public-private

City networks: C40

Savings: Each year, the restored informal waste sites are anticipated to prevent 420K kg of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Solutions: Chennai rehabilitates waterbodies to fend off flooding and drought through the Chennai Water Restoration and Resilience Framework.

Multiple benefits: Economic, social health, and environmental co-benefits.

In a rapidly urbanising city, Chennai faces a combined dilemma of increasing water scarcity and handling large rainfalls.

Objective – To establish a framework for unifying and scaling the efforts of all organisations and citizens working on water body restoration to prevent future flooding and replenish aquifers.

Solutions –The initiative is now repairing 210 publicly controlled water bodies in Chennai. Previously, over a third of the sites were unofficial landfills, but they are now being repurposed to collect stormwater and recharge groundwater. The project’s ambitions are ramped up in the following phases to rehabilitate 460 water bodies, followed by 1,200+ more upstream from the city.

The framework was developed by the municipality in collaboration with other state departments. It aims to assign clear roles and procedures to maximise the engagement of the many stakeholders. To ensure accountability for repair, each water body’s ownership is clearly stated. Researchers and engineers from government, academia, and non-governmental organisations provide technical expertise.

Funding – The project is funded publicly as well as privately by corporations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) through the “Adopt a Water Body” idea, in which willing contributors are allocated specific tasks to complete.

Innovation – This inter-business cooperation resulted in increased energy efficiency and lower production costs, allowing businesses to streamline their operations and become more economically and environmentally sustainable and more competitive in the post-carbon future. This decrease in car and travel has reduced air and noise pollution in the city and reduced transportation-related CO2 emissions.

Success factors – 1) Funnel funding into project goals: The project is funded publicly, as well as privately by corporations and NGOs, via the “Adopt a Water Body” concept, whereby willing contributors are assigned specific works to be carried out. Even with private funding, the framework ensures implementation is completed according to the action plan. 2) Invest in the future: The frequency of extreme weather events in Chennai is on the rise, and each year there are millions of dollars worth of damage. While the restoration requires an estimated $15 million in investment, the city will likely see a return on investment via a reduction in damages in only two years. 3) Engage a willing public: Devastating floods and droughts have prompted the public to contribute. Events promoting communal pride encourage participation. Volunteer organisations help manage water bodies, trained to monitor water quality and keep authorities informed.

Significant outcomes

  • Stormwater is drained from the water bodies, safeguarding nearby houses. Reduced storm damage allows residents and companies to spend more on their properties, improving the local economy.
  • The rerouting of sewage has improved water quality in the recovered water bodies. The locations are already recolonising, with three endemic plant species identified after restoration.

Synergies with local policies:

  • Tamil Nadu State Action Plan on Climate Change (TNSAPCC) delivered the first State-wide and cross-sectoral evaluation of climate change impact and vulnerability and established adaptation and mitigation measures to be implemented by State Government Departments. Water resources are one of its main focuses, with coastal and hilly region interventions, as well as water body rehabilitation;
  • Chennai’s Resilience Strategy 2019. Chennai’s inhabitants and infrastructure, natural and artificial, will be more resilient to future shocks and strains, according to the policy (source). Water systems are part of the resilience measures to carve a resilient future around water resources.

Political alignment:

  • National Water Mission (NWM) attempts to preserve water, reduce waste, and ensure equal distribution. The primary purpose of this Mission is to increase water efficiency by 20%. This Mission has a great adaptive capacity, as well as mitigating co-benefits from efficient energy use and carbon sequestration (source);
  • The National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) is a program announced by the Government of India in 2008 to prevent and adapt to the harmful effects of climate change (source). The plan intends to achieve India’s developmental goals, with a particular emphasis on lowering the emission intensity of the country’s economy.
  • India´s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution. India has set a target of reducing emissions intensity per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 33% to 35% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. And increase the efficiency of water use by 20% (source).

Marketability: The Chennai Water Restoration and Resilience Framework is intended to be scalable to engage governmental, private, and community partners in a collaborative effort to restore as many water bodies as possible as quickly as possible.

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Sector: Water

Country / Region: India

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In 1 user collection: Good practices of cities

Knowledge Object: User generated Initiative

Published by: Realdania