Water Energy Food Nexus: Health impact of urban water access (URBEN)

Project duration
05/2011 – 04/2015

Funding organization
European Commission (EU) and Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)

Project partners
Ladakh Ecological Development Group, India (LEDeG)
Center for Development Research (ZEF)
Center for Remote Sensing of Land Surfaces (ZFL) and Bonn Asia Center (BAZ) at University of Bonn Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS)
International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD)
International Centre for Comparative Water and Development Studies (ICCWaDS)
ZEF Water Pollution and Health Initiative United Nations Human Settlements Programme UN-HABITAT

This interdisciplinary project analyzes cities undergoing rapid transformation due to exponential economic growth (e.g. through tourism). The background is the modernization process taking place in water management in the context of urbanization and globalization in Asia. The focus of the project is on the small town of Leh in the Himalayas in India situated 3,500 meters above sea level. It has a population of nearly 30,000. Local agriculture used melt water from glaciers over centuries. In recent decades, the town has grown rapidly as a result of increasing tourism. The economic growth that coincided with this has been causing significant changes to the lifestyle of the local population. However, the town is situated in a semi-arid region and is facing serious environmental challenges today already because of a lack of water and sewage systems and waste disposal.

The aim of this study is to illustrate alternative urban development approaches that help adapt Leh’s water resource management to the changes triggered by socio-economic developments and climate change. This involves application of various methods, as well as surveys, analyses of public health data, mapping based on Global Positioning Systems (GPS), geographic information systems (GIS) and satellite images. Further approaches include stakeholder workshops and capacity development.

The study shows that pollution of drinking water resources due to a lack of adequate sewage infrastructure presents a health risk for people in Leh. A further issue is that uncontrolled discharge may overtax groundwater resources. This study advocates an integrated approach to urban development and a decentralized or hybrid sewage system to preserve water resources, promote energy efficiency and reduce health risks. Leh can hence serve as a model eco-town for the region.

This research project is supported by a Marie Curie International Reintegration Grant in the 7th European Community Framework Programme (PIRG06-GA-2009-256555) and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) (KE 1710/1-1), and is implemented in collaboration with the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).