Shifting Grounds


Urbanizing deltas in south Asia have seen rapid growth and change. In cities such as Khulna in Bangladesh and Kolkata in India, this has resulted in an increasing pressure on groundwater resources in peri-urban areas. Existing institutions fail to ensure an equitable sharing and sustainable use of groundwater resources in this changing environment, which is evident from the uncoordinated overexploitation of aquifers and a reduced access for vulnerable groups.


This project investigates institutional developments, looking at the dynamic interactions between different groundwater users, the groundwater systems and the influence of nearby cities. The insights should help local stakeholders to negotiate institutional transformations that support a more sustainable and equitable use of groundwater resources.


National and local government actors and urban and peri-urban communities are looking for new or modified institutional structures to improve the management of groundwater resources. This research project will help these actors to look for these structures so that patterns of water related poverty and exclusion can be addressed. The Negotiated Approach and novel supporting tools (like serious gaming and game theory, multidimensional (ground)water poverty assessment, and interactive grounded-theory analysis) will be further developed in relation to groundwater management.


The project will focus on understanding the dynamic interplay between local livelihoods, groundwater resources bases, and formal and informal institutional links with nearby urban centres (Khulna and Kolkata). Analytically these three sub-systems are coupled in three distinct ways, using multidimensional ground water poverty assessment tool, game theory and grounded theory.


Research activities are combined with workshops to strengthen the negotiation capacities of local stakeholders in dialogue with national policy makers, in order to come to improved institutional arrangements for groundwater governance.  Khulna and Kolkata provide an excellent basis for an institutional comparison, being part of the same Ganges delta system, same culture, same language, yet located in different countries.


This project is a good example of action research with a strong cooperation between scientists and NGOs. The major role of Both ENDS is to implement and coordinate the Negotiated Approach in the stakeholder process in cooperation with its southern partners JJS in Bangladesh and The Researcher in Kolkata as facilitators. This will start up in May 2015 with a first stakeholder meeting in Khulna, introducing the project and the Negotiated Approach to representatives of local communities, local government, industries and drinking water providers. The focus will be on problem analysis and needs assessment for the two areas under investigation: Phultala (north of Khulna) and Batiaghata (south of Khulna).


The major part of the work for Both ENDS will be implemented in the 2nd till the 4th year of the project and involves several workshops on the implementation of the Negotiated Approach. In the second half of the project Both ENDS and TU Delft will introduce serious gaming into the project and experience whether this is an innovative addition to the toolbox of the Negotiated Approach.


The project started in October 2014 with a stakeholder inception meeting in Kolkata. The two PhD students have started their work by designing their workplan for the coming years. In May 2015 a start-up workshop will be held in Khulna. The Shifting Grounds project is also presented and discussed at a role-playing workshop organized by Both ENDS during the Dutch World Water Day on 20 March 2015 in Amsterdam.




Remi Kempers, project leader 



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