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Role of Institutional Convergence in ensuring water security of households in Hyderabad city and its surrounding areas

The new State of Telangana came into existence on June 2, 2014 with 10 Districts from erstwhile State of Andhra Pradesh. Hyderabad is the capital of Telangana and de jure capital of Andhra Pradesh. In India water is state subject and in Telangana, like in other states of India, distribution of water is state government’s responsibility. However, the responsibility of water distribution for Hyderabad city and its peripheries is not entirely on the State Government and it is divided into multiple scales. According to spatial scale (urban or rural) or the consumer type (household, industrial, commercial or agriculture), the responsibility is attributed to one particular Department. However, as these boundaries often overlap and inter and intra department communications are missing, it creates institutional divergence and results in institutional collective action dilemma. Institutional Collective Dilemma arises with division of authority and responsibility without clear demarcation of the policy arena. It is a situation when several organizations, public or private, work for the same goal and the decision of one institution can affect the work of other institution. The result of such problem is, inter alia, diseconomies of scale, negative externalities and common property resource problems.

Telangana state is one of the frontrunners in terms of decentralization and delegation of authority to the local authorities and the process is still going on to provide more authority and power to the local government. The principal departments with the responsibility of water distribution and management of water resources are Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWSSB), RWSS (Rural Water Supply and Sanitation), Irrigation and CAD Department (ICAD). While HMWSSB is responsible agency for supplying drinking water in the city, RWSS provides drinking water in the rural areas. ICAD principally caters to the irrigation needs of the state. State Groundwater Department, part of ICAD, is the nodal agency for monitoring, estimation and investigations for ground water resources and works independently from ICAD. Apart from these four institutions, village panchayat also plays an important role in water resource management in the respective village. In villages, village panchayat is representative of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) and the State Government has already disbursed with lots of political, administrative and fiscal power to the PRIs. Village Panchayat has the autonomy to manage the village resources according to the guidelines set at the state or block level. Hence, in village areas, water resource management is a joint responsibility of village panchayat and RWSS or village panchayat and irrigation department, depending on the type of usage. While this has provided the village authorities enough autonomy to decide on their priorities, however, this has also resulted in fragmentation of policy responsibility.


Initially people in Hyderabad used to obtain water from rivers and open dug wells. Later, from 1804 to 1806, the Mir Alam tank was built and it became the main source of drinking water to Hyderabad. The Hussain sagar lake was built by Hazrat Hussain Shah Wali in 1563, during the rule of Ibrahim Quli Qutub Shah. It was fed by Musi river and at the beginning it was created to provide water to people residing nearby the lake. However, towards the end of 19th century, the water of the lake was started being used exclusively for drinking purposes. After the unprecedented flood on Musi river basin on September 28, 1908, Government decided to build two dams on Musi river and its tributary river Esi. Osmansagar and Himayatsagar reservoirs were built respectively on both the rivers to provide water to the city. Later, in 1920, Osman sagar and Himayat sagar water supply were commissioned and other sources were gradually abandoned. Since then these two rivers remained principal sources of water until very recently.

As the city grew physically and demographically over the years, it became challenging to supply water to the population despite the two reservoirs of Osmansagar and Himayatsagar being utilized to the full capacity. The other minor sources of drinking water also were either dried up or polluted. In the year 1958, a scheme was undertaken to draw water from the Manjira river, 40 kms away from the city. The scheme was commissioned in 1965. Later in 1972, due to ever-increasing demand, Manjira phase II was taken up in order to draw additional water from the Manjira river. As the demand for water continued to increase, Manjira phase III and IV was taken up. Sarch for additional sources of water is still going on, which includes both Krishna river and Godavari river.


At present, Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) is the nodal agency for most urban water assets and manages water distribution and retailing networks, bulk-water supply and treatment assets through a dedicated Board named Hyderabad Metropolitan water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWSSB). Before the present Water Board was created, the Hyderabad Water Works Department was entrusted with the responsibility of supplying drinking water to the city of Hyderabad. HMWSSB was constituted on November 01, 1989 by an Act of Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly. Basic aim of creation of a separate water board was to give administrative and financial independence and increased responsibility while supplying drinking water to the people. Presently HMWSSB supplies drinking water for the city of Hyderabad through distant river water through the vast pipeline network and last mile connection is assured through individual house connection, group connections, water tankers and public stand posts (PSPs). While this is the primary source of water for the residents of the city, there are also people who depend on private sources (packaged drinking water, bottled mineral water, private tankers) and groundwater (Individual borewells, group borewells and hand pumps).

Villages and towns that are not part of the municipality, RWSS is assigned to provide water in those areas. RWSS supply drinking water in the rural areas through three different schemes:

  1. Spot sources (Bore Wells fitted with Hand Pumps)
  2. Protected Water Supply Schemes (for one habitation/village)
  3. Comprehensive Protected Water Supply Schemes (for a group of habitations/ villages)

Apart from these three sources, RWSS also procures water from HMWSSB in bulk quantity when HMWSSB pipeline passes through a village. These villages, called en-route villages, pay a certain amount to RWSS in exchange of water and the quantity is decided by RWSS according to the official number of population in the village.

Besides, HMWSSB and RWSS, Irrigation & CAD Department (ICAD) of Telangana is also responsible for providing water to Agricultural sector, Industrial Sector and also providing drinking water for overall development. The management of groundwater resources is the responsibility of State Groundwater Board under ICAD. Although not found in practice, anyone who wants to dig a new borewell for agricultural purpose is supposed to take permission from Groundwater Department. In this way, Ground Water Department can keep the information regarding the number of borewells and oversee that the borewells are located in right proportion geographically. State Groundwater Board is responsible for generating data on groundwater and Central Groundwater Board also work in the state in this endeavor. This data is used by HMWSSB, RWSS and other departments for designing any new plans concerning Water Infrastructure Asset Management.


Thus it is evident that these departments are working with a common objective: ensuring water security for Hyderabad city and its surrounding area for different sectors. With unavailability of surface water within the city and declining level of groundwater, HMWSSB is looking for newer sources of water far from the city. At present, HMWSSB is running various projects and schemes in order to bring water to the people of the city. The distance of the water source from the city is increasing with each new project,consequently increasing the cost as well as the distribution and transmission losses. There are different arrangements and understanding between HMWSSB, RWSS and other line departments concerning the distribution, transmission and overall management of this water.  In this circumstance, it is important that coordination between these line departments remain strong. Strong institutional convergence among these line departments can produce better result in different stages of water delivery services and inefficient water distribution can be avoided.


Government of Telangana, recognizing the necessity of the institutional convergence, has taken the initiative to bring different line departments under one roof in scope of different projects. For example, “Water Grid Scheme” (Mission Bhagiratha), is one of the flagship projects announced by Chief Minister K Chandraskhar Rao with the objective of providing safe drinking water to every household in the rural areas with an estimated cost of Rs 35,000 crore. A total of 1.26 lakh km stretches of pipelines would be laid in the Telangana towns and villages and design for the project has been prepared by Panchayat Raj, Rural Development, and Rural Water Supply department together. Apart from these three departments, GHMC and HMWSSB will also be part of beneficiaries. The scheme also has the component of irrigation and government has announced 25000 crore in budgetary allocation. Since all the irrigation projects being taken up in the state are lift irrigation schemes, water needs to be drawn with motors and thus the project will require about 8,500 MW of power to make them operational. This amount will mostly be spent for power. Hence, it is important that for overall success of the project State Power Generation Corporation (TSGENCO) also be in the planning process.

It is believed that participatory planning from the grassroots level upwards led by local governments will lead to a strong sense of ownership and achieve much of better results in local development. Nevertheless, with increased specialization and sector-wise thrusts in development, the respective line ministries/departments are issuing guidelines for preparation of sector development plans. Increasing incidence of the preparation of such plans is causing in the way of preparing horizontal integrated plans.


In order to use resources efficiently and involve the local governments actively, vertical planning process needs to be transformed into a horizontal planning process, where local governments and other planning entities work together and plan development together.

By Samir Bhattacharya, Sumit Vij, Poulomi Banerjee, Sai Kiran


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