The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Free-flow options for clean drinking water

Fast-perishing aquifers due to indiscriminate vertical and horizontal growth, piecemeal and sectoral solutions rather than a holistic and integrated approach, scant regard for bio-diversity, no plan for rainwater harvesting, poor management and distribution...

Calcutta, like many other Asian megacity, is sitting on the doorstep of a major ecological disaster in management of clean drinking water, according to the Centre for Built Environment (CBE). The non-profit society of “like-minded” architects, city planners and environmental engineers was the sole representative from Calcutta at the Third World Water Forum in Japan (March 16-23).

CBE, which sent a 10-member delegation — the largest from the country — to the Forum held simultaneously in Kyoto, Shiga and Osaka, also organised an independent session at the world meet. The main objective of the session — ‘Water for Asian Megacities: 21st Century Options and Action’ — was to “develop ideas and innovations for future water use for Asian megacities in a holistic and integrated manner, with orientation to ecology and sustainability”.

The main issues were vision for water in megacities, innovative use of water, water resource and urban ecology, regional ecology and water and sustainable water projects. The session was convened and chaired in Osaka on March 19 by CBE president Santosh Ghosh, and a declaration issued. The session hosted a presentation by Arthur McKintosh, adviser to Asian Development Bank (ADB), and Kaoru Takora, a professor in Kyoto University.

According to the CBE declaration, uncontrolled growth, often seen as signs of economic boon, could result in ecological doom, pollution and poverty. Stressing on the perennial conflict between nature and manmade water systems, Ranajit Gupta, who presented the NGO’s views at the global forum, said: “In some cities, there is too little water, causing scarcity and in others, too much, causing floods. The hydrological cycle is often overlooked.”

Advocating a “holistic, regional environment plan for a larger area than a megacity and for a large span of planframe to integrate all aspects of development”, the declaration said that conventional solutions to water issues and sectoral integration with resources will have limited results.

One of the young architects, Monica Khosla Bhargava, who was part of the CBE delegation to Japan, was selected for the ministerial dialogue.

Another feather in the city NGO’s cap came at the Youth Water Forum, where CBE’s presentation was accepted to represent India in front of the Dutch prince, among other noted delegates. Tanushree Mukherjee, architect, writer and dancer, did the presentation, which portrayed the river’s cultural relation with our society.

“Calcutta, which was initially excluded from the ADB seminar on ‘Water for Asian Cities’, was eventually drafted in, thanks to our intervention,” said Ghosh. Nisit Som, director, planning, CMDA, did a presentation on the Calcutta water supply scenario at the seminar. “My theme was the historical evolution of the water situation in the city and its adjoining areas, with special focus on decentralisation and the innovative public-private partnership models we are rolling out,” explained Som, who was also a member of the CBE delegation.

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