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Going digital in stormwater management

Webinar

12 May 2020

Prof Ashvin Gosain recently contributed to the “Going Digital in Stormwater Management: Towards a Water Sensitive Cities” webinar, hosted by the School of Water and Waste at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). 

Early career scientist, Dr Prabhakar Shukla, reflects on the webinar and what Indian cities can learn from innovative European stormwater management initiatives.


Commentary

The heavy rains of India’s monsoon season are crucial in meeting the country’s water needs but flooding and flood mortality is increasing. From 2006 to 2015 there were 90 severe floods that resulted in almost 16,000 deaths according to a UN Report. Uncontrolled urbansiation is exacerbating this problem, putting the food and water security of millions of people at risk. COVID-19 has exposed the need for better water management in India’s urban centres including flood warning systems, rainwater harvesting, and urban drainage. This necessitates accurate rainfall statistics that are spatially disaggregated and provide real-time information at an intra-city level.

The CSE webinar brought together international experts: Prof Paweł Licznar, Wroclaw University for Science and Technology (Poland); Jacek Zalewski, Director, RetencjaPL (Poland); Prof A. K. Gosain, Emeritus Professor, IIT-Delhi (India); and Vijay Chaurasia, Joint Advisor (PHEEE), CPHEEO, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India. Anchored by Dr Suresh Rohilla (Director, CSE), the webinar was attended by more than 750 participants from 181 cities across 30 countries.

The webinar discussed two state of the art research tools created as part of Poland’s R&D “Smart Growth” programme: the Polish Atlas for Rains Intensities (PANDa) and WaterFolder. These initiatives use innovative models to provide localised rainfall statistics across 940 Polish towns and cities. The PANDa map is based on data from the last 30 years taken by 100 rain gauges, creating a digital resource to help governments and industry improve the implementation of water-related infrastructure such as rainwater harvesting and stormwater management.

While appreciating the PANDa model and the WaterFolder initiative, Prof A. K. Gosain highlighted several critical challenges for such initiatives in Indian smart cities. This involves mainstreaming water sensitive urban design and planning for creating blue-green infrastructure in India. He shared his views regarding the data gaps for rainfall statistics in India, and how these can be filled through the Smart Cities Mission. He focused on the lost stationarity of rainfall due to climate change and tackling its implications with intense datasets; flood problems in Indian cities due to the design, management, and ageing of existing infrastructure; and the need to integrate digital data into current systems. He also talked about specific challenges related to calibration and data validation.

This webinar provided significant inputs on opportunities as well as difficulties to customise the PANDa model for implementation in Indian smart cities, which have a mix of uses and diverse dimensions of urban issues related to stormwater management and urban flooding.

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